Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin reported a new investment worth between $500,000 and $1 million in the Vanguard Treasury Money Market Fund on his 2018 and 2019 financial disclosure reports. The Fund’s prospectus states that “under normal circumstances, at least 80% of the Fund’s assets will be invested in U.S. Treasury.” A statute, 31 U.S.C. § 329, prohibits the Treasury Secretary from being involved in buying or selling financial obligations of a State or the U.S. Government. CREW filed a FOIA request with Treasury for legal opinions concerning the meaning of this statute as well as documents referring to Secretary Mnuchin’s Vanguard investment.
Congress enacted the statute to prevent Treasury officials from speculating in public funds. If Mnuchin is in violation of this statute, there could be severe consequences; the statute states that violators shall be fined $3,000, removed from office, and barred from holding any other public office.
The requested records would shed light on whether Secretary Mnuchin violated a law aimed directly at the Treasury Secretary from putting himself in a position to benefit from the activities of the Treasury. Americans have a right to know whether the Secretary of the Treasury was aware of the potential legal issues and whether he ignored any ethics advice when making this investment.