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SEC workers spent hours at work watching online porn

Jaikumar Vijayan | April 26, 2010
Senior staffers among 31 who accessed sites with work computers

FRAMINGHAM, 23 APRIL 2010 - Several senior staffers at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) spent hours daily watching porn on their work computers even as the massive financial crisis was unfolding in 2008, according to agency's inspector general.

In a report prepared by SEC Inspector General David Kotz at the behest of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Kotz cited 31 investigations of workers who had violated SEC rules regarding the use of government computers and time to view pornographic and sexually explicit images. The probes covered a two-and-a-half year period dating back to 2007.

Seventeen investigations involved senior SEC staffers earning between $100,000 and $222,000 annually. In many cases, the Kotz's office obtained on-the-record admissions from the employees involved, though the report does not say how, or even whether, the employees were disciplined.

Kotz's report lists several instances where SEC employees spent several hours daily on porn. One such case involved a senior attorney at the SEC's Washington headquarters who sometimes spent eight hours a day surfing pornographic sites and downloading explicit images. The attorney apparently downloaded so much porn that he filled up all the available space on his government-issued computer. He then downloaded more images onto personal CDs and DVDs, which he stored in boxes in his office.

Another case involved an SEC regional office staff accountant caught trying to access porn sites 1,800 times over a two-week period. That person apparently stored over 600 images on her laptop hard drive. Another employee used SEC computers to upload explicit videos of his own to various porn sites that he had joined, while still another tried accessing porn sites 16,000 times in a month, the report said.

Among those snared in the investigations were two senior enforcement attorneys, one of whom had 775 pornographic images on his SEC-assigned computer. The other attorney had a thumb drive attached to his SEC laptop that contained five videos "depicting hard core pornography," Kotz sais in his report.

In total, the number of people identified by the inspector general in its investigation is less than 1 per cent of the SEC's 3,500 employees.

The issue of porn in the workplace has been a longstanding problem affecting both government and private sector organizations. In 2008, the District of Columbia fired nine municipal employees for using work computers to visit porn sites. Investigations into their activities revealed that each of the fired employees clicked on at least 20,000 porn images over a 12-month period. In that period, one person clicked on over 48,000 porn images while at work. In addition to the firings, an unspecified number of workers in 18 city agencies were sanctioned for violating city computer usage policies.

 

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