The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia recently charged a former federal executive branch official with violating post-employment restrictions. The former official is accused of violating a life-time ban imposed by the Federal conflict of interest statute (2 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)(a)(1)) by representing a private party in the same matter in which the official had participated personally and substantially as a federal official. That offense is a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in prison and/or a $100,000 fine (18 U.S.C. § 216(a)). “Willfully” engaging in conduct constituting the offense is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
In addition to the lifetime ban, for matters in which an official did not participate personally, the statute imposes a two-year cooling off period for matters falling under the prevue of the former federal official and one-year cooling off period for all appearances before the former federal official’s agency.
For current or former federal officials and employees, it is a best practice to discuss post-employment restrictions with their Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO). If possible, this consultation should take place prior to separating from federal service and the opinion from the DAEO should be provided in writing.