Proposed STOCK Act Rule Puts Focus on High-Level Employees

A proposed rule from the Office of Government Ethics would clarify that federal financial disclosure rules, including a law signed in 2012 that imposed additional disclosure requirements on federal workers in policy-making positions, are focused on high-level employees.

The proposed rule to implement the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, published by the OGE on Oct. 5, would make changes “to establish consistency” between the STOCK Act and an older law, the Ethics in Government Act, which was signed in 1978.

Significantly for federal workers in the executive branch, the proposed rule would modify existing OGE regulations on financial filings under the EIGA “to exclude, as a group, certain GS-13 employees and below” from being required to file public financial disclosure statements. Current regulations require “a case-by-case determination by the Director [of the OGE] regarding whether an employee can be excluded from filing a financial disclosure statement by OGE without regard to grade level,” the agency said.

The OGE director under the proposed rule would continue to make that determination for federal employees at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels, the OGE said. The 15-level General Schedule system generally determines salaries for white-collar federal employees in the executive branch.

It was estimated when the STOCK Act was passed that about 28,000 federal employees would be covered.

‘Public Filers' Covered.

The STOCK Act increased financial disclosure requirements for “public filers”—including the president, vice president, federal executives in the Senior Executive Service, some types of administrative law judges and others in the executive branch whose jobs are “of a confidential or policy-making character.”

According to the OGE, the law “imposed additional reporting requirements on public financial disclosure filers, including transaction reporting throughout the year and the reporting of mortgages on personal residences for some filers.”

The 2012 law also originally required that details about high-level government employees’ assets, debts and financial transactions be posted on the internet. Filing of reports containing this information already was required under previous ethics laws, but the information often was available to the public only through a written request.

However, President Barack Obama in April 2013 signed legislation to eliminate requirements in the STOCK Act for online financial disclosure by most high-level federal employees. The STOCK Act as modified by the 2013 law continues to require online posting of financial disclosure forms for the president, vice president and members of—and candidates for—Congress, along with specified presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed agency officials.

Comments on the proposed rule are due no later than Dec. 5, the OGE said.