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SEC Probing Alleged Racial Discrimination

The Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an internal investigation of allegations of racial discrimination against employees there, according to documents obtained by CNBC.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building in Washington, DC.
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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seal hangs on the facade of its building in Washington, DC.

The investigation is headed by an outside law firm, which was onsite at the SEC in January conducting interviews in the matter.

In a statement to employees at the time the allegations were first made last fall, SEC Executive Director Diego Ruiz wrote that the commission takes “any such allegations seriously and intend(s) to conduct a thorough inquiry.”

A spokesman for the SEC declined comment on the matter.

In a letter to Chairman Mary Schapiro in October signed by "Minority Employees at the SEC", a group of employees alleged that there is a "philosophy of inferiority directed towards minorities—specifically African Americans within the commission."

The letter alleges, among other complaints, that managers take race into account when issuing monetary awards to employees in the office of human relations. The letter concluded: “We are working on a 2010 plantation in which one race rules and the rest of us follow.”

The investigation is being led by Tim Wolfe, a partner at Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson in Chicago. According to his biography, Wolfe has handled employment discrimination matters in federal and state courts across the country as well as before administrative agencies.

In a memo to human relations employees at the SEC dated December 30th, Wolfe wrote that he intended to conduct an independent investigation. “I know that some concern has been expressed because of the fact that much of my legal practice deals with representing management in employment discrimination matters,” Wolfe wrote. “I have no stake in protecting the management of your agency. If I find evidence of impropriety, I will report it.”

If Wolfe finds evidence that employment decisions have been made due to unlawful discrimination, he told employees he will submit a report to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro.

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