A lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission improperly disclosed the name of a confidential informant in an FBI investigation, according to a federal watchdog.
The SEC lawyer also revealed that the informant was secretly recording conversations in cooperation with the government, the watchdog said.
The account was among many findings and allegations cited Tuesday in a report to Congress by the inspector general at the SEC, reviewing the office’s work over the six-month period ending March 31.
The SEC lawyer disclosed the information to a witness in the investigation, the inspector general said in the report.
The lawyer, who worked in one of the SEC’s regional offices, exposed the informant despite the fact that the FBI gave him a recording on the condition that he not disclose the existence of the recording or the informant’s role, the inspector general said in the semiannual report to Congress.
The Inspector General’s Office, headed by H. David Kotz, opened a probe of the matter in October 2010 based on a complaint from the FBI, the report said.
Kotz’s office recommended disciplinary action against the lawyer in February. As of March 31, the end of the period covered by the report, the SEC had not taken action on the recommendation, the report said.
The SEC lawyer denied disclosing the information, the report said.
The report did not name the lawyer or provide details about what the FBI was investigating. The report described various investigations without identifying the parties involved.
"The disclosure was inadvertent," SEC spokesman John Nester said.
In other findings, the inspector general said SEC contractors were routinely allowed to begin work at the agency before receiving clearances. That violated federal security requirements, the report said.
One former subcontractor prompted the inspector general to investigate by reporting that he was improperly granted access to sensitive SEC databases before his background check was completed, the report said.
In another probe, an SEC official alleged that a headquarters employee who had invested in a suspected Ponzi scheme repeatedly told other investors that the business was legitimate.
The employee gave investors a “false sense of hope,” the report said. They believed incorrectly that he was providing accurate information based on the SEC’s investigation, the report said.
A federal court ordered the business to give up millions of dollars in allegedly ill-gotten gains, the report said.
The report by the inspector general also said that SEC personnel viewed pornography from agency computers, an issue that has dogged the agency in the past.
In some instances, they were blocked by the agency’s Internet filters, but in other instances they got around the filters, the report said.
An accountant at SEC headquarters, for example, was thwarted hundreds of times but also “successfully accessed numerous sexually explicit photographs from his SEC computer, including graphic depictions of sexual acts,” the report said. Many were accessed during normal work hours, the report said.
The accountant declined to testify, and management proposed his removal, the report said.
When initially contacted in the investigation, the accountant asked the inspector general’s office “to keep in mind that he reviewed the Web sites of private companies in connection with his commission work,” the report said.
A lawyer at SEC headquarters found to have viewed pornography notified the inspector general that he was resigning, the report said.
Another declined to testify in the probe and was facing potential removal from federal service, the report said.
One contractor accused of viewing pornography admitted he had done so, the report said. He was removed as a contractor and was escorted from the SEC building, the report said.