Mandatory Paperwork Not So Mandatory for Some Biden Appointees

Mandatory Paperwork Not So Mandatory for Some Biden Appointees

  • March 4, 2024
PPT discovers Treasury official apparently never filed forms designed to avoid conflicts of interest

Protect the Public’s Trust (PPT) has discovered what looks to be another troubling series of ethics lapses from a Biden administration appointee, this time at the Department of Treasury. Records obtained through a FOIA request indicate that one of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s top deputies failed to submit the required notifications to identify and avoid conflicts of interest while negotiating with outside employers.

Natasha Sarin, former Counselor to Yellen for Tax Policy & Implementation, apparently dodged filing the mandatory forms required under the STOCK Act alerting government that she was negotiating for employment with outside entities – with not just one, but two future employers. Ms. Sarin left Treasury for Yale University and also appears to not have filed a STOCK Act form while negotiating to contribute columns to The Washington Post.

Ms. Sarin joined Treasury in March 2021, having taken an unpaid leave from the University of Pennsylvania. UPenn continued to pay a portion of a forgivable mortgage while she served in the federal government, according to financial records she filed.

Ms. Sarin began negotiations for a position at Yale in March 2022 and left government in December of that year. As a political appointee, she was required to submit a STOCK Act form within three days of first talking with Yale about employment. Although she spoke to someone in Treasury’s Ethics Office and received advice on “recusal requirements with respect to an offer from Yale,” and “acceptance of travel, lodging and meals” while interviewing, she did not submit the mandatory STOCK Act form. In fact, she was reminded to file one by the Ethics Office on December 15, while she was in the process of terminating her employment, but apparently did not file one at that time, either. In the meantime, Yale had paid $5,500 in travel expenses for two trips to the school.

Furthermore, on a financial disclosure form submitted as she left Treasury, Ms. Sarin disclosed that she had an agreement to “work as a contributing columnist” for The Washington Post beginning in February 2023. No STOCK Act form appears to have been submitted for those negotiations.

The rapidly whirring revolving door Biden Administration appointees employ in their coming and going has illuminated a number of ethics deficiencies on the part of powerful officials, as well as seeming lax enforcement by some agencies’ ethics officials. Mr. Sarin’s isn’t the first such case PPT has encountered and, unfortunately, the people charged with enforcing ethics standards don’t always perform as admirably as they should.

“The Biden Administration promised to be the most ethical in history, constantly claiming that no one is above the law,” said PPT Director Michael Chamberlain. “Yet time and again, we have discovered powerful, high-ranking officials falling down on some of the most basic requirements. Unfortunately, this has often occurred with little to no repercussions, sometimes even with employees charged with enforcing the rules seeming to look the other way. All the while, the public’s trust in government continues its rapid downward spiral.”