TMG’s Ivan Adler spoke to CEO Update about the new regulations, which impact federal employee conduct when seeking new jobs.
By Lori Sharn | September 2, 2016
Federal employees seeking new jobs—and the associations keen on hiring them—have updated ethics regulations to consider before even starting a conversation.
As a result, more potential recruits may say “no thanks” to unsolicited overtures. But the Office of Government Ethics also offers first-time guidance on using social media to network and look for jobs. Posting a profile on LinkedIn, for example, does not mean someone is “seeking employment” and so does not trigger conflict of interest safeguards.
The regulations, which took effect Aug. 25 and cover 2.7 million civilian executive branch employees, are timely coming out shortly before a presidential election sets off the usual job churn among political appointees. The U.S. Senate and House each have their own ethics and disclosure rules on seeking post-government employment.
The OGE rules incorporate provisions of the 2012 STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act and also clarify what types of communications are covered by the ethics standards. Federal employees who do not immediately reject an inquiry about a potential job are considered to be seeking employment, and may need to recuse themselves from working on certain government matters.
“If associations or their headhunters are recruiting senior-level government officials … they shouldn’t be surprised if (the officials say) they aren’t ready to move yet and aren’t interested in talking to anybody,” said Ivan Adler, who specializes in recruiting lobbyists at The McCormick Group. “Potential candidates have been instructed to act a certain way, and people shouldn’t be taken aback if they do.”
In addition to recusing themselves, 26,000 “public filers”—those senior-level executives who file financial disclosure reports—must notify their agency’s ethics officers within three days of commencing negotiations or coming to an agreement with any employer. This requirement was part of the STOCK Act. Negotiations are broadly defined as a discussion or communication “mutually conducted with a view toward reaching an agreement regarding possible employment.” This point is usually reached long before any talk about salary, benefits or other terms.
These new regulations are the first major revision to Subpart F—the ethical conduct standards on seeking post-government jobs—since 1993. OGE has issued legal advisories over the years on Subpart F, including guidance on complying with the STOCK Act. But the final rule published on July 26 pulls all this guidance into one place, along with clarifications, updated examples and technical corrections.
Federal employees who violate the rules could face administrative penalties or even criminal prosecution.
“The regulations themselves tend to be updated too infrequently, so if you look at the regulations you may be missing what the actual current guidance is,” said Robert Kelner, chair of the election and political law practice at Covington & Burling.
“In general, the … so-called revolving door rules are not widely understood or even widely known about,” Kelner said. “Every year we end up advising clients who have a problem because they hired somebody without being aware of these rules.”
Kelner said some national trade groups are very sophisticated about hiring government officials but others are not.
Some more highlights of the rules: […]
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