Marketplace Scratch Pad

No wonder they missed Madoff

Scott Jagow Feb 2, 2010

The Securities and Exchange Commission has deservedly taken heat for Bernie Madoff getting away with his scam for so long. Perhaps some SEC workers were simply distracted. By pornography.

The Washington Times reports that more than two dozen SEC employees and contractors faced internal investigations over the past two years for viewing porn on their work computers. The newspaper cites records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and other public documents. More:

The work computer of one regional supervisor for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission showed more than 1,800 attempts to look up pornography in a 17-day span: “It was kind of distraction per se,” he later told investigators.

Ya think? An SEC spokeman wouldn’t discuss the disciplinary decisions for the employees investigated but said sanctions generally range from counseling to dismissal:

The activities of porn-surfing SEC workers, a small fraction of the overall work force, have been serious enough to warrant a mention in each of the past four semiannual reports sent to Congress by the SEC’s office of inspector general.

In response to the open records request by The Washington Times, the inspector general’s office provided more than 150 pages of records and transcripts on the investigations, but declined to identify the employees involved. The office noted that disclosure of the employees’ names “could conceivably subject them to harassment and annoyance in the conduct of their official duties and private lives.”

Surfing porn might also be construed as an “annoyance” in conducting their official duties.

One employee caught snooping estimated that he had been spending part of his workday looking up pornography for more than a year, though he added that he tried not to let it affect his work.

“I justified it because I would work late and I rarely would put in for any kind of comp time or anything like that,” he said.

Words fail me. Of course, this problem is hardly unique to the SEC. Check out the bank employee in the background of this Australian newscast:

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