Hui Chen, a top official in the compliance counsel office of the US Department of Justice, has resigned, citing the conduct of the Trump administration as her reasoning for leaving the department. In a LinkedIn post last week following her resignation, Chen stated that she felt that she could not properly enforce corporations’ compliance with government ethics laws when the administration she worked under have conducted themselves in such a manner that would not be tolerated by her office.
“Trying to hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to was creating a cognitive dissonance that I could not overcome,” Chen wrote in her post. She likened her job of sitting across from corporate representatives of various companies and interrogating them on their ethical practices to “shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic”.
Chen, who was once legal counsel for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and tech titan Microsoft, also said that she felt hypocritical. She pointed to the various legal problems that the Trump administration is facing regarding the Emoluments Clause and other conduct with the Trump family business. Before she resigned, Chen’s Twitter account showed that she was feeling very discontent with Trump, often posting original tweets or retweeting articles that criticized the actions of President Trump and the members of his cabinet.
— Hui Chen (@HuiChenEthics) June 16, 2017
“Even as I engaged in those questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the President of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts, and the investigators and prosecutors fired for their pursuits of principles and facts. Those are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct. I wanted no more part in it.”
Chen began her tenure at the Department of Justice in 2015 when officials created a position for compliance counsel. Among the responsibilities her role demanded was helping to guide the DOJ’s enforcement of laws against any criminal activity by corporations. In an announcement made by the DOJ at the time, Chen’s role would also include helping the department monitor corporations who had made arrangements with the DOJ to ensure that their criminal activity had stopped.
Another reason Chen gave for leaving her position at the DOJ was that she felt that her ability to speak publicly was being hampered by her superiors. As part of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division of the DOJ, she would often speak with other people who held corporations to ethics standards and evaluate different methods of enforcing compliance.
“My ability to do good at a more micro-level, by exchanging ideas with the compliance community on ways to assess the effectiveness of compliance programs, was severely limited,” she said. “The management of the Criminal Division, of which the Fraud Section is a part, has persistently prohibited me from public speaking.”
Though Chen’s contract was not set to expire until October, she couldn’t bring herself to continuing in her position under the current administration. After her resignation, she was interviewed by Matt Kelly for the Radical Compliance podcast. However silenced she may have felt by her superiors at the Department of Justice, Hui Chen is certainly staying silent no longer.
[Featured Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]