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Sunday, April 25, 2010

SEC staff investigating financial crimes 'surfed porn websites while economy crashed'

Senior staff paid by taxpayers to police the financial system during the economic crash spent hours surfing pornographic websites, according to a leaked watchdog report.

Officials at the Securities And Exchange Commission – an independent agency which investigates financial crimes – used government-issued computers to look at sites such as, skankwire and youporn.

Thirty-three probes of employees looking at explicit images were carried out by the SEC’s inspector general, according to the memo.

Report: The memo was written by David Kotz in reponse to a request from a Republican senator

Thirty-one of these were from 2008 – the period which saw the economic meltdown.

It comes as U.S. President Barack Obama called for more government regulation over the financial industry.

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 (£144,689).
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.
Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 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 that SEC officials ‘were preoccupied with other distractions’ when they should have been overseeing the growing problems in the financial system.

Former SEC spokesman Michael Robinson said he shares the public's outrage.

‘That kind of behavior is just intolerable and atrocious,’ he said.

The SEC declined to comment.

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