Senate delays STOCK Act for senior execs

Richard Drew/AP file photo

The Senate passed a bill before leaving town that further delays the online posting of senior executives’ personal finances.

S. 3625, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., delays until Dec. 8 the posting requirement for thousands of high-ranking career employees subject to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. Congress is in recess until mid-November, but STOCK Act supporters hope the House will approve the legislation by unanimous consent during a pro forma session sometime in the next few weeks. Anne Hughes, a spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., said her boss is working with House leadership to get the Senate version of the bill passed during a pro forma session.

The delay does not affect the public financial disclosure requirement for the president, vice president, lawmakers, congressional candidates and political appointees. The deadline for those officials is Sept. 30.

The STOCK Act, designed to combat insider trading in government, requires lawmakers, congressional staffers and thousands of executive branch employees to submit their personal financial details to an online, searchable public database. Proponents of the law cite the importance of transparency to deter nefarious behavior, but many oppose including the finances of federal career executives in the online database. Those disclosures also would affect the spouses of federal employees, regardless of where they work. High-ranking government personnel currently file financial disclosure forms to the Office of Government Ethics; they are available to the public upon written request.

Under pressure from several groups over the STOCK Act, Congress already had pushed back the deadline from Aug. 31 to Sept. 30 for federal executives and others covered by the law to provide personal financial information for the public database. Earlier this month, a federal district court judge, issued a temporary preliminary injunction delaying enforcement of the STOCK Act until Oct. 31.

Lieberman’s bill also directs the Office of Personnel Management to work with the National Academy of Public Administration to study the issues raised by the public disclosure of career employees’ finances and report to Congress with recommendations six months after the legislation is enacted.

Various organizations, including the Senior Executives Association and the American Foreign Service Association, have objected to making 28,000 high-ranking career employees subject to the requirements of the STOCK Act. SEA cites numerous unintended consequences that could result from posting the financial details of the senior civil service corps online, including identity theft, security threats to employees and their families living overseas, and personal safety and national security threats posed to intelligence personnel working undercover in foreign countries.

SEA President Carol A. Bonosaro said during the organization’s recent conference that the STOCK Act is turning off many top career employees from the Senior Executive Service.

In July, 14 former top national security and defense officials in Republican and Democratic administrations sent lawmakers a letter expressing concern over making executive branch employees’ financial information easily available online. “Posting this detailed financial information on the Internet will jeopardize the safety of executive branch officials -- including military, diplomatic, law enforcement and potentially intelligence officials -- and their families who are posted or travel in dangerous areas, especially in certain countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” the letter stated. “Embassy and military security officers already advise these officials to post no personal identifying information on the Internet.”

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