Costa Mesa mortgage lender DiTech Funding Corp. said Thursday it fired about 20 employees this week for violating its policies regarding use of e-mail and the Internet.
"It came to our attention that there was some inappropriate material being exchanged between employees," said Rick Gillespie, a spokesman for DiTech's parent company, GMAC Mortgage Co.
Gillespie wouldn't elaborate beyond saying the policies were "very clear" and had been explained to workers when they joined the company and, thereafter, periodically. He would not discuss whether other employees were disciplined.
While hardly routine, such firings are occurring increasingly. Dow Chemical Co., where employees swapped dirty jokes and pornography via computers, and Xerox Corp., which caught workers shopping online for hours at work, are among the mainline corporations that have dismissed workers for violating technology-use policies.
The highly regulated financial-services industry monitors workers electronically more than any other industry, the American Management Assn. found in a survey last year. More than two-thirds of banking, brokerage, insurance and real estate firms conduct some kind of electronic surveillance, the study found.
"This is a difficult situation for us and the employees," Gillespie said. "But I can't emphasize enough that we take our technology policy very seriously, and we took what we feel is the appropriate action."
DiTech has endured a series of recent legal troubles involving employees, including the indictment on federal extortion charges of three managers at its online mortgage seller, DiTech.com, last year. In January, three former employees sued DiTech and GMAC in federal court, alleging loan officers in DiTech's office were forced to work overtime without pay.