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SEC settles whistleblower case with $580k payment to assistant IG

(Updated 6:56 p.m., June 6, 2013)

The Securities and Exchange Commission has agreed to pay $580,000 in a settlement with a former SEC assistant inspector general who said the agency fired him for exposing possible misconduct.

The SEC reached its agreement last month with David Weber, whose termination from the agency was rescinded as part of the terms, according to his attorney, Cary J. Hansel. The SEC also agreed to clear his record, removing negative references from his file, Hansel said.

“The settlement resolves the matter to everyone’s satisfaction and permits the Office of the Inspector General to continue focus on its important work,” said SEC spokesman John Nester.

In March 2012, Weber alleged that former inspector general H. David Kotz had been involved in inappropriate relationships with women who worked with him on several reviews, including an investigation of the Ponzi schemes involving Bernard Madoff and Allen Stanford. He also raised security concerns relating to SEC computers that contained sensitive stock-exchange data.

Kotz had left the SEC more than two months before Weber made those claims.

A September report by the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general found that Kotz’s relationships created potential conflicts of interest.

“The investigation could not find any evidence that Kotz interfered with the inquiry or materially changed the resulting report as a result of this relationship,” the postal inspector general said. “However, Kotz should have recused himself to assure that conflicts of interest did not manifest themselves more subtly in revealed biases or nuanced messaging to subordinates.”

Kotz contends that the report showed no wrongdoing on his part. “The Postal Service OIG found that no investigations were compromised in any way, did not find that there was any effort to improperly influence an investigation or even that there was an actual conflict,” he said by e-mail Tuesday.

The report found merit in Weber’s concerns about computer security, noting that some devices with sensitive information lacked adequate encryption. The SEC said it has addressed the issue.

“Although we found no evidence that data was compromised, the problem was fixed and the two staffers responsible for maintaining and configuring the equipment are no longer with the agency,” said SEC spokeswoman Florence Harmon.

The agency placed Weber on paid administrative leave in May 2012, following allegations that he created a hostile work environment and displayed threatening behavior by talking about bringing a firearm to work and wearing a bulletproof vest at the office. The Postal Service inspector general investigated those claims but did not substantiate them.

Hansel said Weber donned a bulletproof vest as a joke after colleagues placed smiley-face stickers on it. He said his client only talked about firearms at work in the context of re-certifying special agents to carry weapons after his office’s certification had lapsed.

A week after being placed on leave, Weber took his data-security concerns to the Senate Judiciary Committee, prompting an unnamed senator to meet with SEC Chairman Mary L. Shapiro and other commission staff, according to a complaint Weber filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The SEC fired Weber in October. He now teaches forensic investigation and accounting at the University of Maryland University College.

“Doing the right thing can be hard — just as my family and I experienced,” Weber said. “Now that my name has been cleared, I look forward to helping others through my growing law and forensic investigations practice.”

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