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Sweetheart Deal Lets SEC Workers Get Valentine’s Flowers

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- There may still be time to send Valentine’s flowers to your favorite officials at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. And thanks to some quick action by the agency’s employees’ union, recipients might actually get them.

In what even the regulator’s management acknowledged might be seen as a heartless move, SEC workers were notified earlier this week that the agency was prohibited by law from using government resources for personal reasons -- and that included accepting and delivering flowers to employees’ offices.

The ban didn’t sit well with SEC union chief Greg Gilman who quickly fired off an e-mail to his troops telling them he had demanded the SEC provide “the legal basis for the assertion.” Pizza is routinely delivered to SEC offices, Gilman noted, so why not flowers?

Before the dustup could devolve into a hard-hearted legal battle, Gilman offered up his own bouquet to management, proposing that union volunteers sit at tables in office lobbies to accept flower deliveries. “This seems to us a sensible resolution, and more in keeping with the spirit of Valentine’s Day,” he wrote.

Red-faced, SEC management backtracked on Feb. 12, offering a “clarification” that deliveries could be received and employees would be called down to pick up their flowers.

Gilman, an enforcement lawyer in the SEC’s Boston office, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Possible Thaw

Still, the resolution could presage a thaw in what have often been tense relations between the SEC’s management and its union, which represents some 3,000 of the agency’s 4,000 employees and is a chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union.

Gilman has been critical of a decision last year by Chairman Mary Jo White to give added retirement and vacation benefits only to managers. He also recently accused the commission of stepping up its surveillance of workers after it released a plan to install security systems in regional offices that record the times people go in and out.

The effort to clear the way for SEC valentines may be thwarted by forces more powerful than the SEC’s management, at least at the agency’s headquarters. A snowstorm shuttered U.S. government offices yesterday in Washington, and with reports of more bad weather on the way, there may not be anybody working today to pick up their flowers.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Schmidt in Washington at rschmidt5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maura Reynolds at mreynolds34@bloomberg.net

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