(Washington, DC) This week, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jay Obernolte and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Brandon Williams sent a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting information about alleged conflict of interest violations by current DOE employees.
The Committee’s concerns were prompted by a recent Wall Street Journal article that reported that hundreds of DOE employees continue to hold stocks and other assets related to the agency’s work, despite receiving notice from ethics officials regarding likely violations. Under federal law, DOE employees may not work on matters in which they have a conflict of interest.
“If the information in this report is accurate, it raises grave concerns about the Department’s ethics practices and guardrails,” Obernolte and Williams wrote. “These conflicts of interest call into question the breadth of work that many DOE employees can perform, potentially requiring large portions of the Department’s staff to recuse themselves from substantial portions of their official duties. For this reason, we ask DOE to provide us with assurance that federal conflicts of interest laws are not being violated.”
According to the report, “more than 130 officials in the Energy Department collectively reported approximately 2,700 trades of shares, bonds and options in companies that ethics officers labeled as related to their agency’s work.” The article further alleges that of the more than 300 Department officials identified, nearly 75 held stocks of major energy companies.
“Both the frequency and market value of DOE employees’ alleged security transactions are alarming. For instance, according to the report, one Senior Advisor disclosed more than 15,000 trades over six years while employed by the Department. This averages almost ten transactions per trading day, some of which were highly relevant to his work on grid and electric transmission,” the Members highlighted.
Obernolte and Williams noted additional alleged violations, in particular cases where employees received notice from officials yet continued to trade.
“Taxpayer dollars and taxpayer interests are not served when government employees act like full-time Wall Street Day traders with part-time jobs as Department officials. If these ethics violations are verified, it will be nearly impossible to untangle the influence of these employees’ personal finances from the impact of their official roles,” they wrote.
To understand the nature of these claims and DOE’s ability to manage conflict of interest cases, the Committee requested the Department provide a briefing on this issue and answer the letter’s posed questions by April 19, 2023.