DOJ Compliance Counsel Is Out

No surprise here: the Justice Department is parting ways with its in-house compliance counsel, Hui Chen, who had raised eyebrows lately with thinly veiled attacks against Donald Trump on social media.

The department began advertising Wednesday for a new compliance counsel, and confirmed to the National Law Journal that, yes, Chen is departing after 20 months on the job. Exactly when she will leave isn’t clear, and Chen declined to comment to the NLJ. Her original contract runs until September 2017, and the new compliance counsel will presumably start with the government’s new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Chen began tweeting on May 10, with cryptic attacks against misconduct such as:


None of Chen’s tweets attacked Trump specifically. Instead, they called out unprincipled leadership, compromised investigations, and diminished ethical values—which Trump and his coterie of incompetents happen to be churning out in spades.

On a certain House of Cards meets Seinfeld level, Chen’s tweeting was brilliant. They positioned her as a champion of strong ethical conduct. They raised her profile in the ethics and compliance community, for her inevitable (and now accelerated) return to the more lucrative private sector.

Plus, I’m sure, the tweets annoyed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and hopefully even Trump himself—but what were they going to do, fire yet another government employee standing up for ethics? Chen had the opportunity to stand her ground for good ethics, which is in short supply in the Trump Administration, so she did. Good for her.

This also means, of course, that the Justice Department now has an opening. Compliance officers looking to move into government service, this may be your big chance!

The pay grade is GS-15, which means annual salary of $131,767 to $161,900, plus benefits. (The job seems to be a full-time gig this time around; Chen was an independent contractor.) Candidates should have a J.D. degree and at least four years’ experience, one of which should be equivalent to GS-14 grade—that is, at least one year as a senior-level compliance executive at a large corporation. Application deadline is June 27. You can read the full details on the Justice Department website.

Most interesting to me is the simple fact that the Justice Department is keeping the compliance counsel job at all. The Trump Administration budget proposes sharp cuts to the Justice Department. I thought this would be one of the positions that go over the side. Kudos to Trevor McFadden, the deputy assistant attorney general overseeing the Fraud Section, for keeping it in there.

Meanwhile, let’s all give a round of thanks to Chen. She was the first-ever compliance counsel at the Justice Department, and helped prosecutors understand how compliance really gets done—or not—in the corporate world. While nobody has confirmed this, Chen is also a prime suspect in the guidance published earlier this year about how the Justice Department evaluates the effectiveness of compliance programs. That guidance is specific, practical, and extensive; just the sort of stuff you’d expect a former corporate compliance counsel to know about.

We’ll all have to see what Chen does next. She’s held high-level compliance and anti-bribery positions at Standard Chartered Bank, Pfizer, and Microsoft; she pulled stints as a federal prosecutor for the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn. Somehow I think Chen’s career will be just fine.

Chen is, of course, welcome to contribute to Radical Compliance at any time. Let’s hope she keeps up the tweets, too.


  1. Hui Chen on June 9, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for your kind words. Just one correction and one comment.

    Correction: I am not a federal employee; I am a contractor.

    Comment: what good is “lucrative” when everything you care about – from the quality of the air you breath, to the serenity of the mountains and oceans you love, to your constitutional freedoms and your values as a person – are in jeopardy? Life is short, and I don’t intend to let it be driven by money.

    More to come!

    • Robert Hughes on June 9, 2017 at 11:25 am

      Ms. Chen…thank you for your steadfast commitment to the Ethics & Compliance profession (and it’s professionals) not only in the business world but also in the BIG World…your compassion and courage will be missed at the DoJ…But we look forward to your continued work as an advocate for a healthy and compliant ecosystem for global business enterprises and beyond…cheers!

  2. […] as noted yesterday, the Justice Department is looking to hire a compliance counsel to work in the Fraud Section. The department wants someone with experience in the corporate realm, so this could be a compliance […]

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