White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon failed to properly disclose more than $2 million in mortgage debt on his required financial disclosure form — an error that was compounded when top White House ethics officers certified that Bannon's incomplete disclosure form was complete and complied with federal rules.
Instead of disclosing the creditors for the four home loans he reported, Bannon simply wrote "HOME LOAN" on each line of the form. Bannon’s form was the only one of more than 400 forms filed by Trump Administration appointees — and reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal — that did not specifically list the creditors.
The reason mortgages and creditors are disclosed is to ensure that government officials and those entering government are paying market interest rates for their loans, and not receiving preferential treatment from creditors on the terms.
"What's most significant to me about this situation is that the chief ethics officers at the White House signed off on [Bannon's forms]," said Kathleen Clark, a professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on government ethics.
"Individuals make mistakes. The real story is how shoddy the ethics process is in the White House," Clark said. "This raises an important question about the quality of the work that's being done, and how careful these White House ethics officers are."
The absence of such basic information on Bannon's financial disclosure appears inconsistent with the sworn statement Bannon made when submitting his documents. In it, Bannon had pledged the disclosure’s contents were "true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge."
Bannon, one of Trump’s most influential and controversial advisers, signed his financial disclosure on March 30. The following day, White House ethics lawyers Stefan Passantino and James Schultz both independently certified that Bannon's disclosures were complete, despite the missing information. The White House then transmitted the 12-page disclosure form to the Office of Government Ethics.
Bannon’s omissions were first spotted by volunteers for #CitizenSleuth, a project launched Friday by the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The crowd-sourced investigation is examining the detailed financial disclosures from more than 400 Trump administration officials.
Bannon declined to comment on his filings. White House press officials declined to discuss the matter on the record.