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When to Disclose Employment Negotiations

This is “so that the Senator may make an informed decision as to how best protect against a conflict of interest.” In other words, to avoid a conflict of interest, the Senator will eventually need to know about this, too.

So, has the staffer in your office violated these rules? Based on the facts in your question, my guess is probably not. The answer turns on the definitions of “arrangement” and “negotiation.” According to the Senate Ethics Committee, an arrangement begins when an offer is made and accepted. From what you say, it sounds like he has not reached this stage with any firm.

The Senate Ethics Committee has also issued guidance on the meaning of “negotiation” in this context. Under the guidance, negotiation means “the discussion of terms and conditions of employment after an offer has been made and the Member or Senate staffer is considering accepting.”

Again, it seems unlikely from what you have said that the staffer has reached this stage with any of the firms. You identify two groups of firms, one with which he has already interviewed and one with which he plans to interview in the future. As for the firms with which he has already interviewed, it is conceivable that one of those firms offered him a job.

However, under the committee’s guidance, even if a firm did so, the staffer’s discussions with the firm would not qualify as negotiations unless the staffer was “considering accepting” the job offer. You say that the staffer never considered joining any of the firms with which he has interviewed, which suggests he never reached what the committee considers “negotiations.”

In sum, it does not appear that the staffer has violated the employment negotiation rules because his talks have not reached the stages at which disclosure is required. So, even if staffers had an obligation to report violations by other staffers, in this case there is nothing to report.

I am glad you asked. That could have been awkward.

C. Simon Davidson is a partner with the law firm McGuireWoods. Click here to submit questions. Readers should not treat his column as legal advice. Questions do not create an attorney-client relationship.

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