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Financial Conflicts

An employee is prohibited from participating in any matter in which he has a financial interest. In addition to an employee's own financial interest, certain interests are considered his (“imputed” to him), such as those of his spouse, minor children and business partners. However, an employee may participate in such a matter if he has a waiver.

18 U.S.C. § 208 and 5 C.F.R. § 2635.401-403 (see Subpart D - Conflicting Financial Interest).

An employee may be covered by a general waiver, called a regulatory exemption, for holdings in a diversified mutual fund, certain employee benefit plans and interests in securities up to $15,000 in a matter with parties and $25,000 in matters without specific parties. 5 C.F.R. § 2640.101-206. In addition, an employee may be granted an individual waiver by his Component Head when it is determined that his interest is not so substantial as to affect the integrity of his services to the Government. 5 C.F.R. § 2640.301-304. Here are sample individual waivers.

In addition to an exemption or an individual waiver, other remedies for a financial conflict include disqualification and divestiture of the interest. If an employee is directed to divest his interest, he may be eligible for a Certificate of Divestiture from the Office of Government Ethics. Here is a sample request for a Certificate of Divestiture.

5 C.F.R. § 2634.1001-1004 (see Subpart J - Certificates of Divestiture)

Personal Conflicts

Generally, an employee should seek advice from an ethics official before participating in any matter in which her impartiality could be questioned. An employee may not participate, without authorization, in a particular matter having specific parties that could affect the financial interests of members of her household or where one of the following is a party or represents a party:

  • Someone with whom an employee has or is seeking employment, or a business, contractual or other financial relationship;
  • A relative with whom an employee has a close relationship;
  • A present or prospective employer of a spouse, parent or child; or
  • An organization which an employee now serves or has served, as an employee or in another capacity, within the past year.

If a conflict of interest exists, in order for the employee to participate in the matter the head of the employee's component, with the concurrence of an ethics official, must make a determination that the interest of the government in the employee's participation outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the Department's programs and operations. The determination must be made in writing. Here are samples of 502 determinations.

5 C.F. R. § 2635.501 - 503 (Subpart E - Impartiality in Performing Official Duties)

In addition to the impartiality regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 45.2 prohibits a DOJ employee, without written authorization, from participating in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.



Updated April 27, 2023