SEC joins Chipotle hiring probe

The SEC has joined an investigation into Chipotle's hiring practices. According to several news reports, the commission sent Chipotle a subpoena received May 17 requesting "information regarding our compliance with employee work authorization requirements, our related public statements and other disclosures, and related information," Chipotle said in a filing.

The SEC joins an investigation started by Homeland Security and the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's office into the company's hiring practices of undocumented workers. Chipotle has said it will cooperate with the commission's request for information.

Toward the end of 2010, Chipotle was the target of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit that led to the firing of more than 500 employees. Since then, the company has been the focus of an investigation into its hiring practices that spans the regions of Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

The inquiries led the company to invest in a legal team comprised of Julie Myers Wood, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under President George W. Bush and now an immigration consultant. The company also turned to Washington litigators Robert Luskin and Gregory Craig.

In an email to Reuters, Luskin said: "it is not at all unusual for the SEC to join an investigation under these circumstances to determine whether the company has been forthcoming in its public statements."

Luskin also said he is "confident that the SEC will find that the company fulfilled all of its obligations."  

The company has an estimated 30,000 workers and Co-CEO Monty Moran said Chipotle is expected to hire more than 100,000 employees over the next three years.

Moran has been working with Washington, D.C., officials on immigration reform since the start of the investigation.

So far, the investigation into Chipotle's hiring practices has cost the company more than $1 million in legal fees.

Chipotle's earnings seem unhindered by the investigation. In its first quarter 2012 report, the company reported a 12 percent increase in same-store sales in addition to a 25.8 percent rise in revenue. Additionally, the stock is priced at $392 per share.

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