Government Lawyer Guilty of Conflict of Interest and Filing False Disclosure Forms after Representing Company Seeking Federal Business
Consumer Products Safety Commission Attorney Claimed “Insider Knowledge” in Advertising Private Law Practice
Greenbelt, Maryland - Attorney Jeffrey Ross Williams, age 51, of Potomac, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to committing a criminal conflict of interest and making a false statement to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Office of Inspector General.
“While concealing his private law practice from the government, Jeffrey Ross Williams represented a company seeking government contracts,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Federal employees must report any outside income and businesses on their annual ethics forms, and generally cannot solicit or receive payment to represent private companies in business with government agencies.”
According to Williams’ guilty plea, from September 2005 to March 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) employed Williams full-time in the dual attorney positions of Assistant General Counsel for Enforcement and Information and Assistant General Counsel for Regulatory Affairs, in the Office of General Counsel. Williams was required to report all sources of income and outside employment positions on an annual government disclosure form in order for the agency to identify any conflicts of interest.
While Williams worked for the CPSC, Williams was the managing partner of the Williams Law Firm, PLLC which he founded in 2003. Williams touted his “high-visibility federal government experience” on his law firm’s website and stated that he offered “an insiders knowledge of ... Executive Branch decision making ....”
As part of his outside law practice, Williams helped a foreign corporation, “V Ltd.”, in its efforts to supply the U.S. Army with batteries for armored personnel carriers, including meeting with U.S. Army officials on two occasions to promote “V Ltd.” and its products. On May 16, 2006, after meeting with U.S. Army officials, Williams solicited from the “V Ltd.” CEO a monthly retainer of $8,000, for a minimum of six months, along with reimbursement of expenses, including registration and filing fees for federal disclosures under the Lobby Disclosure Act, Foreign Agent Registration Act, and Defense Procurement Act, and for costs of transportation, food, lodging, and the production of marketing and presentation documents.
On Williams’ financial disclosure reports to the CPSC for the calendar years 2005 and 2006 Williams did not report the Williams Law Firm as a source of income, nor did he report his outside position with the firm, as was required. The fact that Williams maintained a law practice outside of the CPSC was important to ethics officials, because the practice involved federal government agencies and was therefore prohibited by law.
Williams faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, on each of the two counts. Chief U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow scheduled sentencing for June 13, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the CPSC-OIG for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorney Michael R. Pauzé, who is prosecuting the case.