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

Ethics Agreements: A Roadmap to Steer Well Clear of Ethics Violations
September 8, 2020

Increasingly, the public is familiar with the public financial disclosure reports filed by senior executive branch officials.  These disclosures are important, but they only tell half of the story. 

The financial disclosure report tells you what these officials own.  What the financial disclosure form doesn’t tell you is what they are going to do to steer clear of ethics problems.  That’s the job of the ethics agreement.

The ethics agreement is a letter from a newly appointed official to the Designated Agency Ethics Official in his or her agency.  It details the specific steps the official will take to minimize the risk of ethics problems.  These steps can include resigning from outside positions, selling stocks and other holdings that might create conflicts, and agreeing not to participate in work that might affect any financial interest they continue to hold. 

Ethics agreements are designed to ensure that incoming officials are free from the kinds of financial entanglements that could compromise their objectivity or prevent them from performing their duties.  Many officials take actions that are very costly and inconvenient so that they can fully perform the duties of their office.     

OGE makes these agreements public so you can see the actions these officials have agreed to take.  We also make public the certifications that the agreements have been met.  You can find all of these documents on OGE’s Open Government page.  On September 1, new guidance for drafting these agreements went into effect.  We hope this update will make these agreements clearer to both incoming nominees and the public they serve. 

We encourage you to take a look at these documents and our guidance for drafting them.  We hope they give you a sense of the actions officials take to serve our country with integrity.