New Rule Would Exclude Non-Manager Feds From Financial Disclosure Requirements

Proposal would implement regulations for 2012 personal financial reporting law.

Non-managers in General Schedule-13 positions and below -- or in equivalent jobs -- would be exempt from submitting personal financial data under a proposed rule issued by the Office of Government Ethics this week.

The regulation would aim to clarify implementation of the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which required top senior career federal employees, as well as members of Congress and their staffers, to disclose personal financial information to ensure ethics officials were aware of potential conflicts of interest. While the civil servant portion of the law was aimed at members of the Senior Executive Service and political appointees, certain front-line supervisors and rank-and-file employees could have also been affected.

The law was originally expected to impact 28,000 federal workers.

Any federal employee in a position above GS-15 automatically must file the disclosures, in addition to any lower-ranked employees making decisions on contracting or procurement, issuing grants or auditing or regulating any non-federal entity without direct supervision of their decision-making. An agency also could request a disclosure from any employee it deemed at risk of a conflict of interest. The proposed rule, however, would prevent any of these provisions from applying to a GS-13 or below. It would also give OGE the right to exempt any GS-14 or GS-15 if the position “has no policy-making role.”

OGE also clarified that no career employees would have to submit any information on mortgages taken out on their personal property. Only the president, vice president and Senate-confirmed appointees would have to make that disclosure.

The rule would also raise the threshold for disclosing income in excess of government salaries for career employees at GS-15 or below from $200 to $1,000 per year. The employees would also not have to report mutual funds in their employee benefits or assets sold off before they entered federal service.

“OGE believes these changes will simplify the reporting requirements for filers without reducing the ability of ethics officials to complete a conflicts analysis,” the agency wrote in the proposed rule.

Any feds or appointees required to submit their financial records would not have to report travel paid for “in connection with their non-federal employment” if the rule is finalized, OGE said. The agency clarified anyone who accesses the forms should do so only with a “focus on identifying and resolving conflicts of interest.”

Initially, all federal employees filing the disclosures would have seen their personal information posted online. After objections from the National Academy of Public Administration, Senior Executives Association and other groups, however, Congress passed a measure to the data hidden from public view. The information is now only posted online for the president, vice president, Cabinet officials and other Senate-confirmed appointees; lawmakers; and congressional candidates. 

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