United States Office of Government Ethics, Preventing Conflicts of Interest in the Executive Branch

18 U.S.C. § 207: Restrictions on former officers, employees, and elected officials of the executive and legislative branches

Since its enactment in 1962, 18 U.S.C. § 207 has remained the primary source of restrictions that may limit the activities of individuals after they leave Government service (or after they leave certain high-level positions). None of the statute's seven restrictions bar any individual from accepting employment with any private or public employer. Instead, they prohibit individuals from engaging in certain activities on behalf of persons or entities.

Two of the restrictions may affect any former "employee," regardless of rank or position. The restrictions bar a former employee from representing another person or entity by making a communication to or appearance before a Federal department, agency, or court concerning the same "particular matter involving specific parties" (e.g., the same contract or grant) with which the former employee was involved while serving the Government. If the matter was pending under the employee's official responsibility during the employee's last year of Government service, the bar lasts for two years. If the employee participated in the matter "personally and substantially," the bar is permanent.

In addition, certain high-level officials are subject to a so-called "cooling-off" period. For a period of one year after leaving a "senior" position, a former senior employee may not represent another person or entity by making a communication to or appearing before the former employee's former agency to seek official action on any matter. A former "very senior" employee is subject to a similar prohibition, except that the bar lasts for two years and extends to contacts with specified high-level officials at any department or agency. Separately, both former senior and very senior employees are prohibited for one year from representing, aiding, or advising a foreign government or foreign political party with the intent to influence certain Government officials.

The two other section 207 restrictions may affect only those individuals who performed specified duties for the Government. A former employee who participated personally and substantially in an ongoing trade or treaty negotiation covered by the statute, during his or her last year of Government service, is prohibited for one year from providing certain assistance concerning the negotiation. A former assignee under the Information Technology Exchange Program may not represent another person or entity, for one year, in connection with a contract with the agency to which the former assignee was assigned.

OGE has published guidance, at 5 C.F.R. part 2641, concerning all of the prohibitions in section 207, as well as all of the exceptions in the statute. In addition, OGE issues a legal advisory every year that specifies a dollar threshold for purposes of the definition of "senior employee" at 5 C.F.R. 2641.104. (Agency ethics officials and others should consult 5 C.F.R. part 2637 in lieu of 5 C.F.R. part 2641 in relation to former employees who terminated service from July 1, 1979 through December 31, 1990.)