April 25, 2010 in Business

GOP ramps up attacks on SEC over porn surfing

Daniel Wagner Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the Securities and Exchange Commission following reports that senior agency staffers spent hours surfing pornographic Web sites on government-issued computers while they were supposed to be policing the nation’s financial system.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse.”

He said in a statement Thursday that SEC officials “were preoccupied with other distractions” when they should have been overseeing the growing problems in the financial system.

The SEC’s inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees looking at explicit images in the past five years, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The memo says 31 of those probes occurred in the 2 ½ years since the financial system teetered and nearly crashed.

The staffers’ behavior violated government-wide ethics rules, it says.

SEC spokesman John Nester said in a statement Friday that each of the offending employees has been disciplined or is in the process of being disciplined, and some have already been suspended or dismissed.

The memo summarizes past inspector general probes and reports some shocking findings:

•A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

•An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting Web sites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive. The accountant received a 14-day suspension.

•Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.

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