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Former Brazil surgeon turned SEC whistleblower gets US$4.5m

[WASHINGTON] A former Brazilian surgeon who blew the whistle on a medical device company that allegedly bribed doctors to win business will get a US$4.5 million award from US regulators, according to his lawyers.

The surgeon will get the money for playing a crucial role in helping the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) uncover a bribery scandal at Biomet Inc that spanned the globe, his attorneys Christopher Connors and Andy Rickman said in a Friday statement that didn't identify the doctor by name.

"Today's award will spur many would-be foreign whistleblowers to come forward now that they know that the SEC is committed to rewarding whistleblowers" for tips tied to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act anti-bribery law.

Biomet, which has paid tens of millions of dollars to the US government to settle charges of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, is now named Zimmer Biomet.

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The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SEC separately issued a statement Friday that said it was granting more than US$4.5 million to a whistleblower who reported "significant wrongdoing" to the regulator after filing an anonymous tip internally to a company. SEC rules prevent the agency from naming whistleblowers or even identifying the specific enforcement actions that trigger awards.

The Dodd-Frank Act required the SEC to start a whistleblower program. The agency can give tipsters as much as 30 per cent of any fine for cases that lead to sanctions exceeding US$1 million. The regulator says it has awarded more than US$380 million since 2012.