This year, Mr. Harter returned to PwC.
“I have fully complied with Treasury Department conflict rules by not meeting with PwC officials” during a two-year “cooling off” period that prevents government officials from meeting with their former employers, Mr. Harter said. Although he participated in the construction of the overseas tax relief and met with corporate lobbyists, Mr. Harter said he did not recall meeting with Ms. Olson or other PwC officials on the subject.
Ms. Olson referred the questions to PwC.
An indoor track
The 2017 tax overhaul included a provision that allowed certain people to take a 20% tax deduction on certain types of business income. But the law – known as Section 199A — largely excluded an undefined category of “brokerage services”. In 2018, lobbyists from several sectors, including real estate and insurance, went to the Treasury to try to persuade officials that the ban on brokers should not apply to them.
On August 1, records show, Ms. Ellis met with her former PwC colleague, Mr. Feuerstein, and three other lobbyists for her client, the National Association of Realtors. They wanted real estate brokers to be eligible for the 20% deduction.
The meeting took place even before the first draft of the proposed rules was made public, meaning that, from the outset, Ms Ellis’ former PwC colleague and his client had a privileged lead.
When the Treasury published its first version proposed rules a week later, real estate brokers were eligible. The National Association of Estate Agents took the credit for the win on his website. (The final rules only applied to stock and other securities brokers.)
Ms. Ellis’ meeting with Mr. Feuerstein appeared to violate a federal ethics rule that prevents government officials from meeting their former colleagues in the private sector, said Don Fox, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics in the Obama administration and, before that, a lawyer in the Republican and Democratic administrations.
Mr. Fox called the meeting inappropriate. “It’s definitely going to challenge the way this rulebook was written,” he said. “There is no way to undo the taint that will now be attached to this.”