Analysis: STOCK Act to increase reporting burden on senior execs

Monday - 3/26/2012, 11:31am EDT

Bill Bransford, Partner, Shaw, Bransford and Roth

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The general counsel for the Senior Executives Association says the STOCK Act will increase the reporting burden on the federal government's top managers.

The STOCK Act — short for the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act — allows the public to see more of government officials' financial dealings on a website to be set up by the Office of Government Ethics. The bill passed overwhelmingly in both the Senate and House and is now headed to the President, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The people covered under this act are members of Congress, political appointees and senior executives whose base pay is 20 percent more than the base pay of a GS-15 step 1, said Bill Bransford, partner at Shaw, Bransford and Roth. These people have already been filing these forms, but the forms have been publicly available through Freedom of Information Act requests, he said.

"Now, we're talking about putting it on a website where anybody can just go on the Internet and get it anytime they want, so it's making it much, much more accessible to the public, and that's a big problem," Bransford said in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

The bill is problematic because senior executives can "get in trouble in two ways," Bransford said. "Not only do you lose your privacy, but if you fail to make a disclosure of a trade within 30 days of its occurrence, you can get in trouble for not making the proper disclosure."

SEA has sent a letter to lawmakers opposing the bill.

"One of SEA's primary concerns with the STOCK Act is its attempt to equate career federal employees with members of Congress, or even political appointees. SEA is unaware of instances where career senior executives have been subject to insider trader accusations," according to the SEA letter.

The letter added that current requirements are "sufficient" to address any insider trading concerns.

Bransford said the legislation simply is "creating another layer of Big Brother."

Proponents of the bill said the rules will restore the public's faith in Congress.

"The American people are tired of the political posturing and brinksmanship that has become all too common in Washington. It's time to restore faith and trust in democracy by banning insider trading in Congress," said Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), one of the bill's more than 250 sponsors, in a statement.

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