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Justice Department’s Corporate Crime Watchdog Resigns, Saying Trump Makes It Impossible To Do Job

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One of the Justice Department’s top corporate crime watchdogs has resigned, declaring that she cannot enforce ethics laws against companies while, she asserts, her own bosses in the Trump administration have been engaging in conduct that she said she would never tolerate in corporations.

Hui Chen — a former Pfizer and Microsoft lawyer who also was a federal prosecutor — had been the department’s compliance counsel. She left the department in June and broke her silence about her move in a recent LinkedIn post that sounded an alarm about the Trump administration’s behavior.

“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. “To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic. 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 came to the Justice Department in 2015, after officials there created a compliance counsel position to help guide the agency’s enforcement of criminal laws against corporations.

A department announcement at the time said Chen would guide the fraud section of the Criminal Division in “the prosecution of business entities, including the existence and effectiveness of any compliance program that a company had in place at the time of the conduct giving rise to the prospect of criminal charges, and whether the corporation has taken meaningful remedial action.” The release also said Chen would help the department make sure that corporations who had negotiated agreements with prosecutors were following through on their commitments to stop violating laws.

In recent months, Chen had attracted attention for tweets she posted that were seen as critical of the Trump administration. Chen tweeted her LinkedIn post slamming the Trump administration. In that post, Chen also asserted that she had been muzzled by Justice Department officials.

“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 wrote. “The management of the Criminal Division, of which the Fraud Section is a part, has persistently prohibited me from public speaking.”

Chen was recently interviewed about her LinkedIn post by Matt Kelly of Radical Compliance, which covers compliance laws and policy and which has been reporting on Chen’s battle with Trump officials.

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