Jayapal, Warren Push Federal Watchdogs to Review Ethics Rules Amid Reports of Widespread Financial Conflicts of Interest
One in Five Senior Federal Employees Has Stock Investments in Companies Actively Lobbying their Agency
Washington, D.C. – Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent letters to eight federal Inspectors General (IGs) across the executive branch, urging them to review their agencies’ ethics policies and conflict of interest rules. The lawmakers’ letters follow reports of widespread financial conflicts of interest across multiple federal agencies. The lawmakers also requested the IGs provide recommendations on actions Congress can take to strengthen and improve federal ethics laws and rules, eliminate financial conflicts of interest, and improve the public’s trust in government.
“Although federal financial conflict of interest law prevents executive branch officials from ‘participating in a government matter that will have a direct and predictable effect on their financial interests,’ the law appears to have been frequently circumvented or outright overlooked by officials across the executive branch,” wrote the lawmakers. “Even in cases where no law was broken, many officials violated ‘the spirit behind the law,’ adding to widespread issues of soft corruption in the executive branch.”
A recent investigation by The Wall Street Journal found widespread and frequent instances of financial conflicts of interest across fifty surveyed executive branch agencies. The Journal reported that one in five senior federal employees had stock investments in companies actively lobbying their agency, ranging from defense contractors, to big tech companies, to pharmaceutical companies. Alarmingly, at the beginning of the pandemic, the rate and volume of stock trading increased at agencies responsible for pandemic response, suggesting that senior government officials may have used the pandemic as an opportunity for personal enrichment.
In light of these reports, the lawmakers are requesting that the IGs review their agencies’ internal ethics policies and financial conflict of interest rules and provide recommendations on steps Congress and the executive branch can take to strengthen and improve ethics laws and rules.
Text of the letters can be found here.