Whistleblower Rodolfo Michelon is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission in an effort to obtain records connected to the their probe into his employer, Sempra Energy (SRE). He believes that the SEC may have violated federal securities laws through the “outsourcing” of their investigation into Sempra’s alleged illegal activities to two law firms with “close ties” to the company.
Michelon had filed a whistleblower lawsuit with the Commission accusing Sempra of a number of record and books violations related to gas distribution clients in Mexico. Rather than conduct their own probes, he says that the two government agencies instead allowed the two law firms to investigate. After the firms found that Sempra did not violate securities laws, the FBI and the SEC ended their own investigations into the matter.
Michelon submitted Freedom of Information Act requests asking for certain documents and records related to the case last November and this January, and he says both agencies failed to satisfy his request. He is accusing the SEC of making its “Outsourcing Program” available to Fortune 500 companies,” the biggest financial institutions in the country, and their executives. Michelon contends that the program violates both mandates by Congress and public policy expressions “embodied the Securities Act of 1933,” as well as the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and the regulations and rules that implement the acts that direct and give the SEC the authority to handle its own probes into those suspected of violating these rules, regulations, and acts. He claims that the SEC “effectively nullified” the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act’s whistleblower provisions with their handling of the Synergy case.
Michelon’s complaint was filed pursuant to the legal theory applied in Aguirre v. SEC. In that FOIA lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the Commission behaved improperly and public interest in disclosure was greater than the privacy interests of individuals named records related to the SEC’s probe of insider trading that allegedly occurred at Pequot Capital, a hedge fund. The court ordered the Commission to give Gary Aguirre, a former SEC enforcement lawyer, the investigative files sans redactions.
Aguirre had contended that he was let go from the SEC in 2005 as punishment for insisting that a high profile figure in the Pequot investigation be deposed. He later used the records that he obtained to make the SEC reopen its probe into Pequot. In 2010, Pequot, which is now defunct, had to pay $28 million to settle insider trading charges field against it by SEC.
Michelon v. SEC, Justia Docket, April 24, 2012
Whistleblower Sues SEC For ‘Outsourcing’ Bribery Investigation To Sempra Favorite, KPBS, April 30, 2012
More Blog Posts:
SEC Settles Wrongful Termination Lawsuit with Whistleblower Gary Aguirre for $755,000, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 15, 2010
ISS Probes Allegations that a Boston Employee Sold Shareholder Information, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 21, 2012
SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower In Early Phase of Evaluating Reward Claims, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 23, 2012
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