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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has reportedly retained stock she said she would divest

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao owns stock in a construction-materials company she said she would give up last year, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Chao, the report says, has retained shares in Vulcan Materials Co. despite an ethics agreement she signed before taking office stating that she would receive a cash payout in April 2018. In the subsequent year, company shares have risen 13 percent, and she reportedly gained $40,000 since then. The shares are reportedly worth $400,000 now.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told the Journal that under Vulcan's policy, directors' deferred share units are paid out in the form of company stock and so the ethics agreement was flawed. The department's top ethics official has reportedly determined that owning this stock presents no conflict of interest for Chao, but a department spokesperson said that the ethics agreement "is being clarified to avoid confusion." Chao has complied with her ethics agreement by resigning from her Vulcan board position and refraining from participating in DOT matters that would affect Vulcan, the agency said in a statement.

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, told the Journal that "for the head of the DOT to have a financial interest in an asphalt company, that is not sending a message to employees of DOT that she is making ethics a priority." Brendan Morrow

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include more information from a Department of Transportation statement.