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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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SEC awards $22 million to Monsanto whistleblower

By Jim Gallagher Tribune News Service

ST. LOUIS – A former Monsanto financial executive who blew the whistle on the company’s accounting practices has been awarded a $22.4 million share of the government’s settlement with Monsanto, according to his lawyer.

The executive, who was not named, told the Securities and Exchange Commission about misleading accounting surrounding sales of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, according to attorney Stuart Meissner.

The SEC in February slapped Monsanto with an $80 million civil penalty. Monsanto had been using rebates to boost sales of its Roundup, which was facing heavy competition. From 2009 to 2011, Monsanto booked “substantial” revenue from Roundup sales, the SEC said, but failed to recognize the costs of the rebates in the proper year.

That made Monsanto’s profits look higher than they really were, the SEC said in February. Three executives also paid penalties.

The SEC announced the amount of the whistleblower’s award in a press release Tuesday, but did not name the individual or the company involved. An SEC spokesman wouldn’t comment when asked if the company was Monsanto.

The SEC said the whistleblower revealed a “well-hidden fraud.”

Meissner, who is based in New York, said the whistleblower was not in the top tier of Monsanto financial executives. Meissner wouldn’t identify the man or say if he was based in St. Louis, where Monsanto is headquartered.

He left Monsanto on his own accord and was not forced out, Meissner said.

The executive at first brought his complaints to superiors at Monsanto. “He tried to get them to go the right way,” said Meissner in an interview. “He’s a very law-and-order kind of person. He does not believe in looking the other way when he sees something wrong.”

Meissner said he hoped the government pursues a case against Deloitte, Monsanto’s accounting firm. The lawyer said that Deloitte let the company overstate earnings and issue “misleading financial statements – not only once, but twice.”

Monsanto did not immediately provide a response.

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