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SEC watching porn instead of financial industry

Wonder why they missed the financial crisis? Or Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme? A government report obtained by ABC News reveals that SEC employees were focused on something else: porn.

By Husna Haq/Correspondent / April 23, 2010

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) headquarters in Washington is shown in this file photo. Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were being paid to police the financial system, an agency watchdog said, Thursday, April 22, 2010.

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Just when it was beginning to repair its reputation with its high-profile case against Goldman Sachs, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) suffers another major blow: Senior staffers there were surfing Internet pornography – as much as eight hours per day, in one case – when they were supposed to be policing the financial industry.

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Perhaps this helps explain why the SEC didn't see the financial collapse coming. Or did nothing to stop Lehman Bros.questionable accounting tactics. Or Bernie Madoff’s dubious “investing” strategy."

They were busy with other things.

The information comes by way of a disturbing SEC memo to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who requested that the agency’s internal watchdog conduct an investigation. ABC News broke the story on its Thursday evening newscast.

The investigation found 31 serious offenders over the past two-and-a-half years, 17 of whom were senior SEC officers with salaries ranging from $100,000 to $222,000 per year.

The AP reports these highlights

• 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.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, called the scandal “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.”

But, as the Washington Post reports, it’s not the first time government workers have been caught accessing pornography on the job. Employees at the National Science Foundation, the National Park Service, and even a chief judge of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have been caught looking at pornography or posting sexually explicit content on personal websites.

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