David Weber, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission internal investigator fired for allegedly carrying a firearm while on duty, sued the agency for wrongful termination.
Weber, who was chief investigator in the SEC’s inspector general’s office, is asking for $40 million in damages. His suit, filed today in federal court in Washington, argues that he was terminated as part of a campaign to “cover up” and “whitewash” disclosures of wrongdoing he was investigating.
“When David Weber began to uncover the depth of dysfunction at the SEC, they fired him,” said his attorney, Cary Hansel. “He has no intention of being silenced by threats and false allegations.”
Weber was placed on paid leave by the SEC in May, shortly after he raised allegations that ex-inspector general H. David Kotz may have had personal relationships that tainted probes on the SEC’s handling of the Bernard Madoff and R. Allen Stanford Ponzi schemes. Weber was fired on Oct. 31.
The lawsuit called the gun allegations “baseless” and said he kept a legally registered firearm in his car.
John Nester, an SEC spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations and said the agency would respond in court.
The 75-page lawsuit alleges that people involved in firing Weber had conflicts of interest because they were subjects of investigations being supervised by Weber. The court filing contains extensive detail on the probes that Weber was pursuing in his job.
In one instance, Weber was looking into the possibility that the SEC mishandled sensitive data it obtained from the major stock exchanges, the filing said. SEC laptops, Weber found, didn’t have virus protections, firewalls or encryption programs. They were also taken to foreign countries and a well- known hacker convention in Las Vegas, according to the lawsuit.
After Weber raised his concerns about the data to senior SEC management, including Chairman Mary Schapiro, he was barred from the agency and placed on leave, according to the lawsuit.
On that May morning, Weber was on the way to work when he was tipped off by a colleague that “many security armed officers had been posted around the office and were looking for him,” according to the lawsuit. Weber then picked up his private attorney and went to the agency where, according to the filing, he was surrounded and prevented from entering the building.
Schapiro is named as a defendant in the filing.
Weber’s original complaints prompted the SEC to bring in David Williams, the inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service, to conduct a review. Williams concluded that Kotz violated ethics rules by overseeing probes that involved people with whom he has “personal relationships.” Kotz resigned in January amid questions about his tactics and conduct.
Williams also said in his report that he didn’t find any evidence that indicated Weber’s conduct was improper or raised security concerns.
The case is Weber v. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 12-cv-01850, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).