| WASHINGTON, June 12
WASHINGTON, June 12 The U.S. derivatives
regulator is paying millions of dollars for office space in a
regional office that is sitting largely vacant, in a waste of
taxpayer money, according to a report by the regulator's
The report by Commodity Futures Trading Commission Inspector
General Roy Lavik found that of the $5.3 million the regulator
is paying over 10 years for leasing its Kansas City, Missouri,
office, about $3.6 million is paying for unoccupied space.
The report, dated June 4 and seen by Reuters on Thursday,
estimates only one-third of the space is currently being used.
While $3.6 million represents a tiny fraction of the federal
government's total budget, it is more significant for the CFTC,
which in fiscal 2014 was given a budget of $215 million.
"Underutilized space in Kansas City is an expense that
should not be maintained," Lavik wrote. "We recommend that the
CFTC take immediate steps to dispose of underutilized property
in Kansas City ... and initiate a review of underutilized space
in the other regional offices and at headquarters."
In a written response to the report, CFTC management
acknowledged that some of the office space is not being used.
However, the management said, it would be unwise to
completely get rid of the excess space because the agency could
still get a requested budget boost from Congress that would
require more office space to house new hires.
"We have to plan and remain postured for the possibility of
fully utilizing some, if not all of the excess capacity in which
we are contractually obligated into the foreseeable future,"
wrote CFTC Executive Director Anthony Thompson in a May 14
Lavik said he felt this response represents an instance of
"hope trumping experience."
However, Lavik said the CFTC has since taken positive steps
and started talks with the landlord over ways to reduce the
A CFTC spokesman confirmed that talks with the landlord are
The report could hinder the agency in its efforts to
persuade Republicans in Congress to boost its budget.
The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law gave the CFTC
expansive new powers to police the massive over-the-counter
But Republicans have refused to approve large budget
requests by the agency and the administration, partly because
they have felt the CFTC's new rules have been overly aggressive
and costly, and also due to broader concerns about federal
"The CFTC should follow the inspector general's
recommendations," Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley said
in a statement Thursday.
"It's hard to see any reason to waste taxpayer money on
vacant office space."
This is not the first time a financial markets regulator has
come under fire for its leasing decisions and spending.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, which like the CFTC
also leases office space, got into hot water in 2011 after its
internal watchdog found the SEC made numerous errors securing an
additional 900,000 square feet of space at the "Constitution
Center" building in Washington.
The SEC also thought it needed the extra space to implement
its Dodd-Frank responsibilities but was forced to renege on the
deal after Congress failed to give it the extra funding.
Although the SEC has independent authority to make leasing
decisions, the Constitution Center episode led the agency to
hand leasing decisions over to the General Services
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch)