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America’s financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is being investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the wake of an office space leasing controversy.
The SEC has announced that it has turned over documents pertaining to the case to the DOJ.
Part of the controversy stems from SEC staffers allegedly backdating documents supporting the outfit’s actions.
Last July the SEC leased 900,000 square feet of Grade A office space in an upscale area in Washington for USD 550 million. This was office space that it turned out later the outfit had no use for.
Now the SEC has turned over power to lease buildings to another federal agency that takes care of leasing for government agencies and departments that do not have the power to lease their own buildings.
SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro told the House panel that the three employees who handled the leasing have been stripped of all duties.
“The fact that the SEC has not paid any rent to date for this property and that the bulk of the space has been leased to other tenants does not adequately address a situation that never should have occurred,” Ms. Schapiro said.
Other federal agencies have agreed to take over 600,000 square feet of the office space leased and the SEC is now searching for another tenant to take over the rest.
A barrage of criticism was unleashed on the SEC when it emerged that the lease was based on completely random and overinflated estimates of the SEC’s space needs. The SEC also failed to submit the contract to competitive bids.
The SEC estimated that it would need at least 800 additional staff to deal with the added responsibility it thought it would acquire with the passage of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.