Eugene W. Hickok, who was the No. 2 official in the Department of Education earlier in the Bush administration, has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle possible conflict-of-interest charges over stock he owned in a bank that participates in the federal student-loan program.
Mr. Hickok, who served as the deputy secretary of education from April 2004 until February 2005, helped oversee the program.
Authorities said he did not keep his promise to sell more than 800 shares in Bank of America Corp. when he became deputy secretary. Mr. Hickok also misled federal ethics officers by telling them that he had divested all of the shares of several bank stocks when he had not done so, according to a statement by Jeffery A. Taylor, the U.S. attorney in Washington.
Mr. Taylor’s office announced the settlement on March 16.
Mr. Hickok said in an interview last week that he had not intended to deceive federal ethics officials and that the problem had resulted from a mistake.
After Mr. Hickok signed an agreement with ethics officers stating that he and his wife would sell his shares of bank stocks upon becoming deputy secretary, Mr. Hickok’s wife sold all of her interests in Bank of America and three other banks that issue federal student loans. He and his wife assumed his financial advisers had sold bank shares owned by Mr. Hickok as well, he said.
Although Mr. Hickok served as undersecretary of education, the department’s No. 3 position, starting in 2001, he was not required to sell his bank shares then because he had agreed to abstain from policy decisions regarding the federal student-loan program.
When President Bush nominated him to be deputy secretary, ethics officers insisted that he end his ownership of bank stocks.
“We agreed to divest everything, and we thought we had,” said Mr. Hickok, who is now a senior policy director at Dutko Worldwide, a Washington-based lobbying firm.
“This one just slipped through the cracks,” he added.
He said he discovered the mistake when his accountant gave him disclosure forms he needed to file in 2005. He said he alerted federal prosecutors to the problem and has been negotiating a settlement since then.
In a statement he signed as part of the settlement, however, Mr. Hickok acknowledged that he had received dividends, news of a stock split, and other information about his ownership of shares in Bank of America during the time he said he thought he had complied with ethics rules.
In the statement, the U.S. attorney’s office said Mr. Hickok would not face indictment for any conflict-of-interest violations pertaining to his ownership of Bank of America stock.
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2007 edition of Education Week as Hickok to Pay $50,000 in Bank-Stock Inquiry