Ethics officials should be alert for possible violations of the criminal or civil statutes or the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. When ethics officials find evidence that an employee has violated an ethics criminal statute or regulation, they must refer that evidence to the appropriate authority for action. Depending on the circumstances and the legal authority at issue, an executive branch employee may be imprisoned, fined, demoted, or fired for violating an ethics provision.

Criminal Prosecution

In general, whenever ethics officials have information concerning a possible violation of a criminal statute, the agency should coordinate with its office of Inspector General, or similar investigative unit, to ensure the matter is referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ).  Only DOJ may decide whether to pursue the violation with criminal charges.  Agencies must report such referrals to OGE.  They may use OGE Form 202, a “Notice of Conflict of Interest Referral Form.”

Matters involving the criminal conflict of interest statutes should be referred to the United States Attorney where the alleged violation occurred, or:

Director, Conflict of Interest Crimes Branch Public Integrity Section
Criminal Division
U.S. Department of Justice Washington, DC 20038
Public Integrity Section Direct Line: 202-514-1412

Civil Penalties

Violations of other statutes are enforced by DOJ through the use of civil penalties. For example, violations of the statute setting the limitations on outside earned income may be enforced through the imposition of Federal civil penalties up to $11,000 or the amount of any improperly received compensation. Agencies should refer violations of these statutes to:

Federal Programs Branch
Civil Division
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, DC. 20530
Phone: 202-514-1259/514-4651/514-3671

Disciplinary Actions

A violation of the Standards of Conduct may not be the subject of a criminal prosecution, but such violations may be cause for corrective action or for disciplinary action against an employee by the agency.

In addition, if DOJ declines prosecution of a possible violation of a criminal statute, the agency should then determine whether any violations of the Standards of Conduct regulation have occurred that should be pursued with disciplinary action. The agency must notify OGE in writing of any subsequent actions taken.

Conflict of Interest Prosecution Surveys

Each year OGE issues a survey of prosecutions involving the conflict of interest criminal statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 202-209). Information on the prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys' offices and the Public Integrity Section of DOJ's Criminal Division is provided to OGE with the assistance of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys at DOJ.

The information on this page is not a substitute for individual advice. Agency ethics officials should be consulted about specific situations.

Laws & Regulations