Reps. Takano and Bonamici Raise Concerns about Conflict of Interest at the Office of Federal Student Aid

Washington, D.C. – Today, Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and two other Democrats sent a letter to Department of Education General Counsel Edward Muniz to inquire about the ethics and standards of conduct within the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). 

The Office of Federal Student Aid releases billions of dollars in student aid each year. Since the majority of employees at FSA are career staff, they are not required to sign the ethics pledges that President Trump’s political appointees must sign, which means the public does not have access to the financial disclosures or waivers issued for these employees.

In January 2018, FSA issued a pre-solicitation notice to move forward with a pilot payment card program for students’ financial aid that could eventually serve millions of students. Three individuals with deep financial sector ties raise ethical concerns about this program and their potential conflict of interest.

“Recently, FSA put forward a pre-solicitation notice indicating their intent to pilot a payment card for students’ financial aid similar to a prepaid or debit card which could eventually be scaled up to serve tens of millions of federal financial aid recipients. This solicitation presumably involves numerous individuals, but three employees raise ethical questions,” the lawmakers wrote.

“All three individuals in question have deep ties to the financial industry, and their prior work history suggests they may have conflicts in soliciting offers from banks and card companies to obtain increased access to students’ financial aid accounts. Therefore, we are writing to better understand how Dr. Johnson, Mr. Fox, Ms. Shuler, and the Department have addressed any potential conflicts of interest or appearance of impropriety in the FSA Next Gen Payment Card Program Pilot solicitation process.”


The letter is attached as a PDF. The cosigners of the letter were Reps. DeSaulnier and Grijalva.



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