House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling criticized the SEC for leaks to the news media in a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White this week, CNBC has learned.
"Leaks emanating from closed meeting deliberations jeopardize all of the SEC's enforcement work," Hensarling, R-Tex., wrote to White in a letter dated August 18. "Entities will be less willing to engage in settlement discussions if in doing so they run the risk of the underlying facts of the case entering the public domain."
Of particular concern to Hensarling was the ability of CNBC and The Hill newspaper to obtain copies of a non-public investigative report that detailed a long running leak investigation inside the SEC. "Leaks of this magnitude are unacceptable," Hensarling wrote.
CNBC obtained a copy of Hensarling's letter Thursday from a source who declined to be named.
In other words, a congressional letter criticizing the SEC for leaks involving a report about a leak investigation was itself leaked.
At issue is a contentious investigation inside the SEC into who leaked information about the commission's then-secret session about JPMorgan's involvement with the so-called "London Whale" trades.
The inspector general of the Securities and Exchange Commission conducted an intensive, months-long dragnet in 2013 and 2014 involving phone, email and security searches to determine who inside the agencymay have been involved in the leak, CNBC first reported in July.
Investigators at the Office of the Inspector General produced a 16-page report detailing their findings in March. The document painted a picture of an SEC in which commission members were at odds with one another and investigators scrutinized their colleagues, staff and the media. It also detailed just how far the inspector general went to learn how information about a Sept. 12, 2013,executive session commission meeting about JPMorgan had apparently been given to a Reuters reporter, Sarah Lynch.
In his letter this week, Hensarling expressed concern that too many staffers are allowed to attend sensitive SEC meetings. "Attendance at closed Commission meetings should be a privilege, not a right," he wrote. "Mere intellectual curiosity is not sufficient justification for an employee to stop his work and attend a closed meeting."
Hensarling also singled out "the adequacy of the SEC's policies, procedures, and protocols to secure confidential information," "the adequacy of the SEC's media policy for Commissioners and their staff," and the"degradation of the Enforcement Division's ability to present to the commission proposed settlements."
He also noted that "The OIG's report obtained by CNBC finds that 'it is possible for people standing outside the closed commission meeting room to hear the discussions and votes through the closed doors.'"
Hensarling asked White to provide a copy of the investigator general's report that leaked to CNBC and others to the Financial Services Committee. And he also asked what disciplinary action the Commission has takenagainst any individual employees as a result of the investigation.
He also asked White to "please describe in writing by September 5 2014, the Commission's plans to soundproof the room in which closed meetings occur or post security outside the room to prevent unauthorized SEC employees or other individuals from listening to the closed proceedings."
A spokesman for Hensarling said that the Financial Services Committee Chairman has not yet received a reply from the SEC.
A spokesman for the SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
—By CNBC's Eamon Javers. Follow him on Twitter: @eamonjavers