President Joe Biden cast Vanita Gupta as an upstart civil rights lawyer when nominating her for the number three position at the Department of Justice. But Gupta is also the daughter of a wealthy and powerful chemical executive—prompting ethics concerns that she did not address in her Senate nominations questionnaire.
Her father is Rajiv L. Gupta, a chemicals magnate turned Wall Street adviser and board member for Fortune 500 companies. Gupta made no mention of her father’s sprawling corporate network on a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that asked her to identify prospective conflicts, despite the fact that the Justice Department has repeatedly sparred with her father’s businesses in recent years.
The issue is especially pressing since Biden has made integrity and public confidence touchstones of his DOJ picks, in light of purported damage to the department’s prestige under former president Donald Trump. If confirmed, Gupta will serve as associate attorney general, the officer that advises the A.G. on Justice Department priorities and oversees key units like the antitrust division, the civil division, the tax division, and the environment and natural resources division, all of which could conceivably abut her father’s businesses.
Rajiv Gupta was a decades-long employee of the Rohm and Haas Company, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer and distributor of speciality chemicals for electronics and construction. Gupta, an immigrant from India, joined the company as a financial analyst in the early 1970s. He was chairman and CEO by the turn of the century. Under his leadership, the company expanded its presence in China, opening a manufacturing plant in the Guangdong province and a $60 million research center in Shanghai. He orchestrated Dow Chemical’s $18 billion acquisition of Rohm and Haas in 2009.