Buried somewhat amid the sticker shock of last week'sproposed $3.8 trillion budget for 2011, and the mind-boggling increases to thenational deficit it promises to enact should Congress approve it, was adouble-digit increase for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
President Obama's budget has earmarked about $1.3 billionfor the regulator, which represents a 12 percent hike over its fiscal 2010budget.
In the nine years I've held this post, I've devoted morethan a few columns to the underfunding and understaffing malaise that hasimpacted the Commission during the past decade and detailed how adisproportionate number of SEC employees had opted for the private sector andits traditionally higher wage scale.
When aberrations such as the Madoff Ponzi scheme wentundetected for years, some had attributed that embarrassment to theaforementioned lack of resources.
Which is why I found a recent report somewhat disturbingon a number of SEC employees that had been caught surfing the Web - not tomonitor financial transactions - but rather attempting to access porn sites.
Apparently, in a story first broken by the WashingtonTimes as a result of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act,some at the Commission were far more motivated to follow the physicalcontortions of Jenna Jameson or Amber Lynn, than, say, the financial statementsand off-the-curve returns of Bernard Madoff Securities.
Rough two dozen employees over the past two years havebeen caught attempting to access X-rated URLs including one unidentifiedsupervisor who made about 1,800 attempts (no, that's not a misprint) but wasrebuffed because of the software filters.
Now, I've witnessed firsthand two instances wherecolleagues of mine were immediately jettisoned for viewing porn, no hearing, nosecond chances, just a box to pack up and then an escort out.
But in true government employee tradition, the SECsupervisor was given a reprimand for "wasting time and using agencyassets."
And sadly, that's not a misprint either.
Not only that, but reportedly after being grilled byinternal investigators, the supervisor revealed that the X-rated viewing at theagency had been going on for a while and actually boasted that he had navigatedways around the SEC's monitoring software.
After a decades-long thread of incompetence was revealedin the Madoff scandal, many rightfully called the agency's reputation andoversight into question, and there were rumors of transferring the SEC's powerto a super-regulator.
If the agency hopes to rebuild its shaky image and showthat it is deserving of the budget increase, not to mention respect, it needsto do the right thing in this situation.
Send the hormonally challenged offenders packing and letthem view all the porn they want from the comfort and privacy of their home!
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