Congress has agreed to delay until spring 2013 the online posting of senior executives’ personal finances.
The move postpones the posting requirement for thousands of high-ranking career employees subject to the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act until April 15. The House approved a bill on voice vote Wednesday and the Senate agreed to it by unanimous consent on Thursday.
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.
Congress earlier this fall postponed the posting requirement for career feds until Dec. 8. The latest delay, which also applies to congressional staffers, is the third such postponement. The public financial disclosure requirement for the president, vice president, lawmakers, congressional candidates and political appointees took effect on Sept. 30.
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. In September, a federal district court judge, issued a temporary preliminary injunction delaying enforcement of the STOCK Act until Oct. 31.
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 cited 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.
The bill that delayed the posting requirement for senior executives until Dec. 8 also directed 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 within six months. That report is due March 28.
“As SEA has continued to point out, federal employees in the executive and legislative branches face security risks due to the information and programs they oversee, and many have already received threats based on the nature of their work,” said Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. “It is critical that Congress allow NAPA time to complete its study to identify whether the interest in transparency outweighs the national and personal security concerns that arise from posting financial disclosure forms.”