As the country was sinking into its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years, Security and Exchange Commission employees and contractors cruised porn sites and viewed sexually explicit pictures using government computers, an SEC investigation obtained by CNN showed.
“During the past five years, the SEC OIG (Office of Inspector General) substantiated that 33 SEC employees and or contractors violated Commission rules and policies, as well as the government-wide Standards of Ethical Conduct, by viewing pornographic, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images using government computer resources and official time,” said a summary of the investigation by the inspector general’s office.
More than half of the workers made between $99,000 and $223,000. All the cases took place over the past five years.
“It is nothing short of disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at pornography than taking action to help stave off the events that brought our nation’s economy to the brink of collapse,” said Rep. Darrell Issa. The Republican is a ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“This stunning report should make everyone question the wisdom of moving forward with plans to give regulators like the SEC even more widespread authority,” he said. “Inexplicably, rather than exercise its existing regulatory enforcement authority, SEC officials were preoccupied with other distractions.”
FROM THE SEC REPORT-
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 websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet, he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SEC’s internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense and received a 14-day suspension.
Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.
The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.