Congress delays STOCK Act reporting as groups file suit

Thursday - 8/2/2012, 8:25pm EDT

(This story was updated Aug. 3 at 1:30 p.m. to include information about the vote to delay the STOCK Act reporting requirements).

Congress has delayed by a month parts of an insider-trading law that would have required federal employees to post financial-disclosure forms online by Aug. 31.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced the measure Thursday, where it was quickly adopted by both chambers of Congress.

The vote came shortly before the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., on behalf of 28,000 employees to block implementation of the STOCK Act (Public Law 112-105).

Among the lead plaintiffs on the case are the Senior Executives Association, three other federal-employee organizations and seven individuals.

The bill requires agencies to post detailed financial disclosure forms from many federal employees on the Internet. At first, the legislation applied only to members of Congress and their staffs, but was later extended to apply to 28,000 senior members of the executive branch, including military officers.

"It is clear from this action that Congress has heard the strong concerns voiced by SEA and other federal employee associations," an SEA release stated. The group hopes the delay "will give Congress and stakeholders time to work out a permanent solution."

The bill requires agencies to post detailed financial disclosure forms for many federal employees on the Internet. At first, the legislation applied only to members of Congress and their staffs, was later extended to apply to 28,000 senior members of the executive branch, including military officers.

The types of information contained in the forms are already publicly available, albeit only through official requests.

"SEA does not object to financial reporting requirements, but does object to making the personal financial information of senior executives subject to invasive public scrutiny while serving no legitimate public purpose," SEA President Carol Bonosaro said in a release.

The group claims the requirements are an invasion of privacy and subject those workers to a real fear of identity theft.

The law requires the Office of Government Ethics to post the financial disclosures in a searchable database. The nominee to head OGE told Congress earlier this month he believes the law should be revised to better balance privacy and safety.

Some open government groups have said the law is needed to prevent conflicts of interest by federal employees.

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