Rewards: Putting a Price on Information

There is no fixed rule for how the amount paid to an informant is determined. Much depends on the quality of the information provided, the law enforcement agency, its budget, sophistication, and geographic location. Thanks in part to press reports, leaked information, and federal statutes governing rewards, we know that informants are paid handsomely for their efforts. Some FBI informants are paid $100,000 or more per year. Many earn millions of dollars during their relationship with the government.


  •  Many [informants] earn millions of dollars during their relationship with the government.The amount paid to an informant is based on the value of the information they provide. The following items are considered when determining payments made to an informant.
  • Significance of the investigation.
  • Degree of assistance rendered by the informant.
  • Did the informant provide general or specific information?
  • Was the informant responsible for initiation of the case?
  • Was the information available from other informants?
  • What length of time was spent by the informant in assisting in the investigation?
  • Did the informant participate in consensual monitoring activities?
  • Were undercover agents introduced by the informant?
  • What was the potential risk of violence toward the informant?
  • What other substantial accomplishments are attributable to data supplied by the informant, that is, arrests, convictions, violent acts prevented, Title IIIs (wiretaps) generated, search warrants executed, and so on?
  • In how many consensually monitored and recorded conversations did the informant participate?
  • Will the informant testify if deemed appropriate, and what is the potential for future investigative contributions?
  • Was the informant able to continue his/her normal job while working for the department?
  • Did the informant suffer any financial losses as a result of the cooperation?
  • What was the value of seized and forfeited property obtained as a result of the informant’s cooperation?

Forfeited Property

Informants are eligible for a percent of the value of property forfeited by the government. The amount awarded is left to the discretion of the government. The discretionary nature of the rewards has been the subject of numerous lawsuits brought by informants who felt they were cheated by the government.

Sting Operations

Informants also participate in protracted undercover sting operations whose primary objective is to seize money. They are paid from the proceeds of the operation, often based on a percent of the net amount realized by the law enforcement agency. Here again, there have been cases where informants claim they were not paid the amount they were promised. The amounts in controversy have been in the millions of dollars.


There is no prohibition against an informant and his attorney from entering into negotiations with a law enforcement agency regarding terms of compensation. Dennis G. Fitzgerald is available to assist in the negotiations.



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