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James Lager

Chief Ethics Adviser

US Government Accountability Office


Jim Lager is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, where he teaches ethics-related courses in its undergraduate and masters programs, a member of the Heterodox Academy, which advocates for viewpoint diversity and constructive disagreement in higher education, and a collaborator to Ethicalsystems.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to using behavioral science to improve ethical culture and behavior.  Jim is also the Chief Ethics Advisor at the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), and advises GAO on conflicts of interest, ethics, personal and organizational independence, and manages GAO’s ethics and financial disclosure programs. Jim has substantial experience as a labor and employment lawyer, representing private and government clients in trial and appellate courts, and as an investigator in various contexts, including serving as a lead congressional investigator examining violation of federal campaign laws. 

Jim received a Juris Doctorate from the Washington College of Law/American University, and a Masters of Science in Organization Development from American University/NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. A frequent speaker on behavioral ethics, his publications include "Beyond Compliance," in the Ethical Leadership: Global Challenges and Perspectives (C. Millar and E. Poole, eds. 2011), "Governments Demand Compliance, Ethics Demands Leadership," Journal of Public Affairs 10(216-224) (2010), and "Overcoming Cultures of Compliance to Reduce Corruption and Achieve Ethics in Government," 41 McGeorge L. Rev. 63 (2009). His 2009 essay: "Have a Problem with Compliance?" was awarded the H. George Frederickson Best Article Award by the American Society for Public Administration. His recent article “Toward a More Perfect Objectivity,” co-authored with Professor Tammy Waymire, is pending publication in the IIA’s Internal Auditor magazine.