Congress approved a bill Friday to eliminate expanded financial-disclosure reporting requirements for Senior Executive Service members, just days before the new requirements were to go into effect.
The bill indefinitely suspends the filing requirements for 28,000 Executive Branch employees, including SES members. The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent Thursday evening. The House followed suit Friday.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which Congress passed last spring, was designed to deter insider trading by members of Congress and some 28,000 senior federal employees. Under the bill, these feds were be required to file reports of new transactions in stocks, bonds, commodities or other securities that exceed $1,000 to the Office of Government Ethics — information that would eventually wind up on a publicly searchable database .
Along with SES members, the new measure also exempts congressional staff.
The financial-disclosure requirements will still apply to the President, Vice President, members of Congress and executive-branch officials requiring Senate confirmation.
Since approving the STOCK Act last spring, Congress twice delayed implementation of the reporting provision for senior execs and asked the National Academy of Public Administration to study the issue.
Transparency vs. security
NAPA, in a report issued March 28, recommended Congress indefinitely suspend the provision requiring senior executives’ financial disclosure forms to be posted on an online searchable database.
The group said the posting of such information would “impose unwarranted risk to national security and law enforcement, as well as threaten agency missions, individual safety and privacy.”
In addition, the expanded reporting requirements wouldn’t do all that much to deter conflicts of interest, the group said.
The Sunlight Foundation, an open-government group, was critical of the Senate vote to repeal the reporting provision, calling it an “epic failure” for transparency that would “gut” the STOCK Act’s reforms.
“There were concerns that some provisions of the bill were overbroad and would put some government employees at risk,” Lisa Rosenberg, Sunlight’s government affairs consultant, wrote in a post on the group’s website. “Rather than craft narrow exemptions, or even delay implementation until proper protections could be created, the Senate decided instead to exclude legislative and executive staffers from the online disclosure requirements.”
A lawsuit filed last August by federal-employee groups, including the Senior Executives Association (SEA), resulted in a court injunction of the new reporting requirements.
SEA President Carol Bonosaro said putting the new requirements on hold indefinitely was the right decision.
“SEA is grateful to Congress for recognizing the harm that would have resulted from posting financial disclosure statements of senior level career employees on the web,” she said in a statement.
The expanded reporting requirements were set to go into effect Monday.