Richard Painter served as chief ethics lawyer in the White House under George W. Bush.
He has served as a tenured member of the law faculty at the University of Oregon School of Law and the University of Illinois College of Law, where he was the Guy Raymond and Mildred Van Voorhis Jones Professor of Law from 2002 to 2005. He has been the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Minnesota Law School since 2007.
From February 2005 to July 2007, he was associate counsel to the president in the White House Counsel’s office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the president, White House employees, and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the executive branch. He is a member of the American Law Institute and is a reporter for the new ALI Principles of Government Ethics. He has also been active in the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Bar Association. He is a board member and vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as well as a founding board member of Take Back our Republic, a campaign finance reform organization.
Painter has also been active in law reform efforts aimed at deterring securities fraud and improving ethics of corporate managers and lawyers. A key provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, requiring the SEC to issue rules of professional responsibility for securities lawyers, was based on earlier proposals Painter made in law review articles and to the ABA and the SEC. He has given dozens of lectures on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to law schools, bar associations, and learned societies, such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Painter has on six occasions provided invited testimony before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate on government ethics, securities litigation, and/or the role of attorneys in corporate governance.
Painter’s book Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference was published by Oxford University Press in January 2009. His coauthored book (with Professor Claire Hill) Better Bankers, Better Banks: Promoting Good Business Through Contractual Commitment was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2015. From 2014-15 he was a residential fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, which funded his work on a third book, Taxation only with Representation: The Conservative Conscience and Campaign Finance Reform (Take Back our Republic, 2016).
He has written op-eds on government ethics for various publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and he has been interviewed several times on government ethics and corporate ethics by national news organizations, including appearances on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC), Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN), CNN News, Fox News, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and Minnesota Public Radio News. Painter has also given expert testimony in cases involving securities transactions and the professional responsibility of lawyers. He testified as a defense witness in SEC v. The Reserve Money Market Fund (SDNY, November 2012), a jury trial of an SEC enforcement action against the founders of the world’s oldest money market fund that ended with a defense verdict on all of the fraud counts.
Painter is the coauthor of two casebooks: Securities Litigation and Enforcement (with Margaret Sachs and Donna Nagy; West Academic Publishing, 2003; second edition, 2007; third edition, 2011) and Professional and Personal Responsibilities of the Lawyer (with Judge John T. Noonan Jr.; Foundation Press, 1997; second edition, 2001; third edition, 2011). He has written dozens of articles, book reviews, and essays.