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February 15 Is an Important Day on the Government Ethics Calendar

February 15, 2024

Shelley Finlayson, Acting Director and Program Counsel

The executive branch does a lot of important and valuable work that requires a vast workforce located throughout the nation and the world. More than 2 million government employees engage in activities that people, companies, and organizations care about. They do things like investigating the cause of accidents, enforcing securities laws, conducting public health campaigns, and buying the essential equipment for a functioning government. The scale of these activities is hard to fathom. In procurements alone, the U.S. government spent nearly $700 billion in fiscal year 2022. 

Ensuring such a large enterprise and workforce are conducting the people’s business in the people’s interest takes a similarly large effort. A key part of that effort is financial disclosure. By the end of today, the nearly one-in-five civilian executive branch employees required to complete a confidential financial disclosure will have filed their reports. These employees are required to file because their employing agencies have determined that their work poses a possibility for conflicts of interest between their personal financial arrangements and the government work they do. These filers include investigators, regulators, grant reviewers, and purchasers. Basically, any executive branch employee whose duties would affect the financial interests of outside companies or persons may be required to file.

In the coming weeks, thousands of ethics officials will review these approximately 400,000 confidential financial disclosure reports. Where they find a potential for a conflict between the employee’s official duties and a financial interest reported on the employee’s form, they will ask the employee to take action to prevent these potential conflicts from becoming actual conflicts. These ethics officials may ask a filer to sell a holding, resign from an outside job, or stay out of certain government work. These efforts are vital to protecting the integrity of government programs and operations.

As our fellow federal employees across the executive branch file their reports, and our ethics colleagues in the more than 140 agency ethics programs begin to review them, we should all be grateful for their efforts to protect the integrity of our government.