Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday told a top government ethics official he should not have publicly plugged "The Lego Batman Move" — a film in which he has a financial stake — and promised to "exercise greater caution" in the future.
"I take very seriously my ethical responsibilities as a presidential appointee and the head of the Department of the Treasury," Mnuchin wrote to Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Shaub to determine whether Mnuchin had committed an ethics violation last week when he discussed the movie during an event hosted by the Axios news website that aired on C-SPAN2.
At the end of the question-and-answer session on March 24, Mnuchin was asked to name a movie people should see.
"Well, I'm not allowed to promote anything that I'm involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure, you've asked me the question, and I am not promoting any product," he said. "But you should send all your kids to 'Lego Batman.' "
The movie was produced by RatPac-Dune Entertainment, a company Mnuchin founded and in which he still holds a financial stake, Wyden said.
Mnuchin told Shaub that "although I included a disclaimer indicating it was not my intention to promote any product, I ended my response to that lighthearted question with words that could reasonably have been interpreted to encourage the questioner to see a film with which I was associated."
"I should not have made that statement," Mnuchin said.
He refrained from answering a similar question in an interview the next day, and "will act similarly in the future," he said.
Mnuchin said he received an initial ethics briefing from Treasury's ethics officer before he was nominated and has met with her frequently since then, including after the March 24 event. He intends to schedule a follow-up meeting, he said.
"I want to reassure you that I will exercise greater caution to avoid any suggestion that I do not take these important rules seriously," Mnuchin told Shaub.
A spokeswoman from the Office of Government Ethics declined to comment.