WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate three former Obama administration officials, David H. Stevens, Michael D. Berman and Jim Parrott, for possible violations of laws restricting post-employment activities. While working for the government, all three had focused on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. After joining the private sector, they continued to work on this issue, now on behalf of some of the country’s largest banks.
CfA Executive Director, Anne Weismann stated, “The nation’s biggest banks desperately want to control the country’s home mortgage system. With trillions of dollars at stake, they have pushed the administration and Congress to put Fannie and Freddie out of business. It is no surprise that they would turn to those who worked on this issue in the administration to help them make their case. It is imperative that the Justice Department investigate whether these former officials crossed the ethical line after they walked through the revolving door.”
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On December 7, 2015, The New York Times, published a detailed investigation describing how Messrs. Stevens, Berman and Parrott assisted the nation’s largest banks in their efforts to displace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to the Times, all three bore significant responsibility for handling issues related to the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie while employed by the government. Mr. Stevens served as Assistant Secretary and Federal Housing Commissioner at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Mr. Parrot, was counsel to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan before moving to the National Economic Council in the White House, and Mr. Berman served as a senior adviser to Sec. Donovan. Following their government service, all three moved to the private sector, representing banks and insurers with a significant financial interest in the fate of Fannie and Freddie. All three have met repeatedly with government officials working on issues pertaining to Fannie and Freddie: Mr. Stevens had 19 such meetings, Mr. Parrott six, and Mr. Berman two.
Federal law prohibits former government employees from ever attempting to influence government officials on particular matters in which they personally and substantially participated while employed by the government. As all three worked on the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie, they likely are barred from attempting to influence government officials on that issue. Any inquiry would have to focus on exactly what each man said during the course of his meetings with administration officials.
Senior government employees, such as Mr. Stevens, are barred from seeking official action from their former agencies within one year of employment. As Mr. Stevens met with government officials less than one year after he left the government, if any HUD officials were present and he attempted to influence them, he may have violated this prohibition.
Finally, Mr. Stevens may have violated the Lobbying Disclosure Act by failing to register as a lobbyist. Despite taking part in at least 19 meetings as the chief executive of the Mortgage Bank Association, for which lobbying is a mainstay, a review of lobbying disclosure forms reveals that Mr. Stevens has not registered to lobby.
Ms. Weismann continued, “High-level administration officials leveraging their contacts for the benefit of banks that are too-big-to-fail feeds into Americans’ cynicism about government. If these former officials violated the law, they should be held accountable.”
Fannie Mae – The complaint can be found here .
CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.