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Why Hui Chen left the Justice Department

Joe Mont | July 5, 2017

Hui Chen, retained in 2015 by the Justice Department as a full-time compliance counsel expert, recently left the agency, dropping pointed criticisms of President Trump on her way out the door.

In a June 25 post on LinkedIn, titled “Mission Matters,” Chen explained her decision. “Leaving DOJ was not an easy decision,” she wrote. “Serving as the Fraud Section’s compliance counsel had given me not only the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and innovative prosecutors in the federal government, it had also given me a platform from which I believed I could make a positive difference. Now, my reason for leaving is the same: to make a difference.”

Among her duties as a consulting expert was developing benchmarks for evaluating corporate compliance and remediation measures and communicating with stakeholders in setting those benchmarks. She also helped prosecutors and monitors evaluate whether the implementation of compliance demands wereeffective.

Prior to joining the Justice Department, Chen served as global head for anti-bribery and corruption at Standard Chartered Bank.

In her LinkedIn post, Chen wrote that she could “make a bigger difference outside of the DOJ than inside.”

“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,” she said. “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,” she added. “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 added that her “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.” The management of the Criminal Division, of which the Fraud Section is a part, “persistently prohibited” her from public speaking.

Despite her concerns and grievances, Chen said her time in the Fraud Section was “among of the most rewarding experiences in my career.”

“What will I do now? The mission is the same: to make a difference,” she wrote. “It seems clear that there is much work to do not only in taking corporate ethics and compliance to the next level, but also in raising the moral consciousness of societies.”

To those ends, plans to engage in speaking, writing, and consulting, “working with not only corporations interested in enhancing their ethics and compliance programs, but also with foreign and domestic government agencies to enhance their leadership in the markets.”