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

Special Government Employees

Some ethics provisions that apply to executive branch employees apply differently to an employee who qualifies as a "special Government employee" (SGE), or do not apply at all.

Congress created the SGE category in 1962 when it revised the criminal conflict of interest statutes. Congress recognized the need to apply appropriate conflict of interest restrictions to experts, consultants, and other advisers who serve the Government on a temporary basis. On the other hand, Congress also determined that the Government cannot obtain the expertise it needs if it requires experts to forego their private professional lives as a condition of temporary service. Since 1962, the SGE category has been used in a number of statutes and regulations as a means of tailoring the applicability of some restrictions.

As defined in 18 U.S.C. § 202, an SGE is an officer or employee who is retained, designated, appointed, or employed to perform temporary duties, with or without compensation, for not more than 130 days during any period of 365 consecutive days. The SGE category should be distinguished from other categories of individuals who serve executive branch agencies but who are not employees, such as independent contractors (who are generally not covered by the ethics laws and regulations at all). Also, although many SGEs serve as advisory committee members, not all members of advisory committees are SGEs.

The bullet points below highlight how the criminal and civil conflict of interest statutes and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch apply differently to SGEs or do not apply at all. OGE has published a comprehensive summary that explains how these provisions, executive branch financial disclosure requirements, and certain other legal authorities apply to SGEs. In addition, the preamble to the proposed post-Government employment rule, found at 68 Fed. Reg.7844 (Feb. 18, 2003) (PDF) (HTML), contains a detailed discussion of SGE status and who qualifies as an SGE.
 

Financial Conflicts of Interest & Impartiality

  • An SGE's agency can use special waiver provisions to resolve financial conflicts of interest arising under 18 U.S.C. § 208 (a criminal conflict of interest statute prohibiting an employee from participating in any particular Government matter affecting personal or "imputed" financial interests).
  • An SGE who is serving on an advisory committee may rely on special exemptions from 18 U.S.C. § 208.
  • An SGE is not eligible to receive a certificate of divestiture if required to sell property to resolve a conflict of interest.
     

Gifts & Payments

  • An SGE is not covered by 18 U.S.C. § 209 (a criminal conflict of interest statute prohibiting the supplementation of Government salary).
  • An SGE is not covered by 5 U.S.C. app. 4 §§ 501 or 502 (civil statutes limiting outside earned income and restricting certain outside employment and affiliations).
     

Outside Employment & Activities

  • An SGE's agency can use special waiver provisions to resolve financial conflicts of interest arising under 18 U.S.C. § 208 (a criminal conflict of interest statute prohibiting an employee from participating in any particular Government matter affecting a personal or "imputed" financial interests, such as those of the SGE's non-Federal employer).
  • An SGE who is serving on an advisory committee may rely on special exemptions from 18 U.S.C. § 208.
  • 18 U.S.C. §§ 203 and 205 (criminal conflict of interest statutes concerning the representation of others before the Government) apply differently to SGEs.
  • An SGE's agency can use special waiver provisions to exempt an employee from 18 U.S.C. §§ 203 or 205.
  • An SGE is not covered by 5 U.S.C. app. 4 §§ 501 or 502 (civil statutes limiting outside earned income and restricting certain outside employment and affiliations).
  • An SGE is not covered by 5 C.F.R. § 2635.804 (a regulatory provision prohibiting outside earned income).
  • 5 C.F.R. § 2635.805 (a regulatory provision concerning service as an expert witness) applies differently to SGEs.
  • 5 C.F.R. § 2635.807 (a regulatory provision concerning the acceptance of compensation for certain teaching, speaking and writing) applies differently to SGEs.
  • 5 C.F.R. § 2635.808 (a regulatory provision concerning fundraising) applies differently to SGEs.
     

Post-Government Employment

  • 18 U.S.C. § 207(c) and (f) apply only to certain SGEs.
     

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