KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A former Monsanto Co. financial executive who tipped off regulators about the agribusiness giant’s accounting practices involving rebates for its Roundup weed-killer will get nearly $22.5 million as a whistleblower, federal securities regulators announced Tuesday.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said the payout comes out of the $80 million penalty the St. Louis-based company agreed to pay under a February settlement with the agency. Tuesday’s award is the second-biggest the SEC has given a whistleblower since a $30 million payout in 2014.
Monsanto’s February agreement resolved allegations that it misstated its earnings by not properly accounting for millions of dollars paid to distributors as Roundup rebates, which had the effect of distorting the company’s earnings reports for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Monsanto, which did not immediately return Associated Press messages Tuesday seeking comment about the whistleblower award, agreed to the February penalty without admitting wrongdoing. It also agreed to hire a consultant to review the company’s financial reporting procedures for rebates.
At that time, the SEC said three Monsanto accounting and sales executives will pay individual penalties of $30,000 to $55,000. CEO Hugh Grant also paid back $3,165,852 in bonuses tied to the company’s financial performance, while former Chief Financial Officer Carl Casale repaid $728,843 in bonuses. Regulators said they found no personal misconduct by Grant or Casale, but the company said securities rules required the repayment.
The whistleblower’s name wasn’t released. That person’s New York-based attorney, Stuart Meissner, only identified his client as a former Monsanto financial executive who approached the SEC only after trying to correct the issues internally.
“Company employees are in unique positions behind-the-scenes to unravel complex or deeply buried wrongdoing,” Jane Norberg, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said in a statement. “Without this whistleblower’s courage, information, and assistance, it would have been extremely difficult for law enforcement to discover this securities fraud on its own.”
The improper accounting occurred at a time when Monsanto was losing market share to competitors who sold generic herbicides for prices lower than Monsanto sold Roundup, the SEC has said. Regulators described a process in which Monsanto recorded sales in each of two years but didn’t account for rebates until the following year.
Monsanto has said it won’t be required to change its financial statements because the company has already revised its reports for the period, after completing an internal investigation in 2011.
Monsanto shares closed Tuesday at $107.44, down a dime.
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