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The Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules yesterday that could make it highly lucrative for Wall Street whistleblowers and other corporate insiders to alert the agency to securities violations.

Under the rules, whistleblowers will be entitled to 10-30 per cent of the money they help the SEC collect through enforcement.

The agency was acting at the behest of Congress and President Barack Obama, who mandated the rewards last year in legislation responding to the mortgage meltdown. Companies had lobbied intensely for rules that would impose constraints on whistleblowers.

But most SEC commissioners rejected pleas by business groups that, before going to the SEC, whistleblowers should have to notify the companies they were accusing of wrongdoing and give them a chance to deal with the allegations.

”Today’s rules are intended to break the silence of those who see a wrong,” said SEC chairman Mary Schapiro. ”For an agency with limited resources like the SEC, I believe it is critical to be able to leverage the resources of people who may have first-hand information about potential violations of the law.”

The issue is one of the most contentious the SEC has faced in its response to the 2008 financial crisis. The issue is also a bellwether of the agency’s direction under Ms Schapiro, an Obama appointee who previously headed a self-regulatory organisation for Wall Street companies.