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It Takes a Lot to Walk Away

July 7, 2017

[Photo: Walter Shaub, from video on CNN]


by Howard Haykin


Compliance, legal and ethics officers are all-too familiar with the drill. We confront senior management or ‘rain makers’ on a questionable product, strategy or deal, and are told to ‘live with it’ and to find a way to make it work (compliance-wise). When the matter is both serious and illicit, the officer faces a career-changing decision – either protect the company at the risk of facing personal regulatory sanctions, or take a stand and say ‘No’, understanding that you've protected your integrity at the risk of losing your job.


That was the case with Walter Shaub, Director of the Office of Government Ethics, who resigned on Thursday after clashing repeatedly with Donald Trump and his administration. Mr. Shaub offered no explanation with his resignation, which is effective July 19. He will now join the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center as a senior director for ethics. [It's nice to have a fall-back plan.]


The OGE, an independent executive branch agency that helps officials avoid conflicts of interest, took on more prominence in the Trump administration as a possible check on self-enrichment by government officials. The agency lacks disciplinary power in the executive branch, and can only recommend actions for the White House to take.


Having called upon Trump to sell his businesses and for the White House to punish Kellyanne Conway in February after she made an apparent pitch for Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, among other things – all without effect – Mr. Shaub resigned while saying that it was "clear that there isn't more I could accomplish."