SEC Settles Wrongful Termination Lawsuit with Whistleblower Gary Aguirre for $755,000

The US Securities and Exchange Commission and former SEC attorney Gary Aguirre have settled his wrongful termination lawsuit for $755,000. Aguirre has contended that he was fired in 2005 after accusing his supervisors of mishandling an insider trading probe against hedge fund Pequot Capital Management and trying, without success, to interview John Mack, Morgan Stanley‘s then chief executive officer, as part of the probe.

Aguirre claimed that the SEC tried to overlook signs that Pequot had used insider information to trade in Microsoft shares. He also accused the agency of not wanting to interview Mack because of his “political” influence. The SEC had accused Aguirre of insubordination and fired him.

His allegations, however, led to the SEC’s inspector general conducting two internal probes that eventually found that the SEC not only botched its probe of Pequot, but also that it improperly terminated Aguirre from his job. The agency was even accused of strategizing to discredit Aguirre. As for the Pequot investigation, last month the hedge fund and its chief executive Arthur Samberg agreed to settle the SEC’s insider trading case for $28 million.

A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative law judge has finalized the wrongful termination settlement and says it is possibly the largest “of its kind.” Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine has said that “[u]nfortunately, this large settlement is the exception that proves the rule.” He is calling on Congress to offer “real protections” for regulatory employees. In the meantime, he contends that the existing law will continue to allow “government regulators to turn a blind eye.”

Related Web Resources:
SEC settles with Gary Aguirre over firing during Pequot Capital Management probe, Washington Post, June 29, 2010
SEC Agrees to Pay Aguirre $755,000 Over His Firing, Bloomberg Businessweek, July 15, 2010
Pequot to pay $28 million to settle insider trading case, Reuters, May 27, 2010
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