April 4, 2019
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) refused to certify Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s financial disclosure report covering 2017. Secretary Mnuchin is the third member of President Trump’s cabinet whose financial disclosure OGE declined to certify due to ethical concerns.
According to a letter from OGE Director Emory Rounds to the Senate Finance Committee, OGE refused to certify the report due to Secretary Mnuchin’s imputed interest in the film production company Stormchaser Partners LLC.
Secretary Mnuchin pledged in his ethics agreement to divest his interest in Stormchaser Partners LLC within 90 days of his confirmation. He subsequently filed a periodic transaction report showing that he did. According to his most recent financial disclosure report, however, Secretary Mnuchin’s wife Louise Linton maintains an interest in the company. Ms. Linton is the Chief Executive Officer of Stormchaser Partners and earned at least $1,158 from the company in 2017.
The criminal conflict of interest statute, 18 U.S.C. § 208, imputes the financial interests of a federal employee’s spouse to the federal employee. As a result, Secretary Mnuchin continues to have an interest in Stormchaser Partners.
OGE Director Emory Rounds noted that the Treasury Department’s then-Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) advised Secretary Mnuchin that he could retain his imputed interest in Stormchaser Partners. Yesterday, Secretary Mnuchin amended his ethics agreement to reflect that advice. Treasury ethics officials, however, “did not inform OGE of this advice [at the time], which had the effect of letting the Secretary reacquire, without prior approval from OGE, a financial interest in an asset he agreed to divest.”
Mnuchin is the third cabinet-level Trump official whose financial paperwork OGE has refused to certify due to ethics concerns. OGE declined to certify Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s 2017 financial disclosure report because he violated his ethics agreement by holding BankUnited stock far beyond the 90-day grace period his ethics agreement provided to divest the interest. OGE also declined to certify former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s 2017 financial disclosure report due to a sweetheart condo deal with an energy industry lobbyist.
Ethics issues have plagued the Trump administration since its inception. President Trump’s cabinet secretaries, including Secretary Mnuchin, have disregarded ethics rules for their personal benefit. As a result, OGE refused to certify their financial disclosure reports, highlighting a troubling pattern among some of the highest-level Trump administration officials.