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Government - Wide Ethics Laws




These laws apply to all Federal employees and each carry criminal penalties for noncompliance.  They also serve as a basis for the ethics regulations known as the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 C.F.R. Part 2635.

Bribery Of Public Officials Prohibited - 18 U.S.C. § 201

This statute prohibits a Government employee from directly or indirectly receiving or soliciting anything of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance or nonperformance of any official act, including giving testimony, or in exchange for committing fraud.

Restrictions on Compensated Representational Activities - 18 U.S.C. § 203

This statute prohibits a Government employee from seeking or accepting compensation for representational services (rendered either personally or by another) before a Federal court or Government agency in a particular matter in which the United States is a party or has a direct or substantial interest.  Representational services include any communications on behalf of another party with the intent to influence the Government.  There are limited exceptions, such as for representing oneself or one's immediate family or a person or estate for which the employee acts as a fiduciary, but not where the employee has participated officially or has official responsibility.

Restrictions on Acting as an Agent or Attorney - 18 U.S.C. § 205

This statute prohibits a Government employee from acting as an agent or attorney for anyone before a Federal court or Government agency, whether compensated or not.  There are limited exceptions, such as for representing other Federal employees in personnel matters; representing a not-for-profit organization in certain matters, if a majority of its members are current Federal employees or their spouses or dependent children; representing oneself or one's immediate family or a person or estate for which the employee acts as a fiduciary, but not where the employee has participated officially or has official responsibility; or acting as an agent or attorney, in certain matters, for a tribal organization or intertribal consortium to which the employee is assigned under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act or 25 U.S.C. § 48, after advising the Government in writing of any personal and substantial involvement the employee has had in connection with the matter.

Post-Government Employment Restriction - 18 U.S.C. § 207

This statute does not bar an individual, regardless of rank or position, from accepting employment with any private or public employer.  It does impose restrictions on certain communications that a former employee may make as a representative of a third party back to the Federal Government.  These restrictions are explained more fully in the "Restrictions on Post-Government Employment" section of this website.

Conflicts of Interest - 18 U.S.C. § 208

This statute prohibits a Government employee from participating personally and substantially, on behalf of the Federal Government, in any particular matter in which he or she has a financial interest.  In addition, the statute provides that the financial interests of certain other "persons" are imputed to the employee (that is, the interests are the same as if they were the employee's interests).  These other persons include the employee's spouse, minor child, general partner, an organization in which he or she serves as an officer, trustee, partner or employee, and any person or organization with whom the employee is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning future employment.  There are limited regulatory exemptions authorized by the Office of Government Ethics, an exception for certain financial interests arising solely out of Native American birthrights, and a very limited waiver authority.

Supplementation of Federal Salary Prohibited - 18 U.S.C. § 209

This statute prohibits a Government employee from receiving any salary, or any contribution to or supplementation of salary; or anything of value from a non-federal entity as compensation for services he or she is expected to perform as a Government employee.

Impartiality in Performing Official Duties - 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502

You must take appropriate steps to avoid any appearance of loss of impartiality in the performance of your official duties.  Beyond the conflict of interest law discussed at 18 U.S.C. § 207, ethics regulations require all employees to recuse themselves from participating in an official matter if their impartiality would be questioned.  The regulations identify three circumstances where employees should carefully consider whether their impartiality is subject to question:  1) where the financial interests of a member of the employee's household would be impacted; 2) if a party or party representative in an official matter has a "covered relationship" with the employee; and 3) any other time the employee believes his or her impartiality may be subject to question.  The term "covered relationship" includes a wide variety of personal and business relationships that an employee or his family members may have with outside parties.  Employees who find that a party or representative of a party is a person with whom the employee or a family member has a personal or outside-of-work/unofficial business relationship should consult with their ethics counselor before taking official action in a particular matter.