Obama signs STOCK Act modification

President Obama quietly signed legislation Monday that rolled back a provision of the STOCK Act that required high-ranking federal employees to disclose their financial information online.

The White House announced Monday that the president had signed S. 716, which repealed a requirement of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act requiring the disclosure, which had previously been delayed several times by Congress.

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That provision, added to the bipartisan bill aimed at halting insider trading by members of Congress, would have required roughly 28,000 senior government officials to post their financial information online, and had come under harsh criticism from federal government employee unions.

Both chambers of Congress quickly — and near silently — approved the repeal legislation at the end of last week by unanimous consent, just before heading home to their districts.

The STOCK Act was signed by the president a little over one year ago in a highly visible signing ceremony, where he said the legislation would tackle the "deficit of trust" that exists between Washington and the rest of the nation.

The new law scraps a provision that had been hotly contested by federal employees, as well as found to be problematic and even dangerous for high-ranking government workers. Congress twice had passed legislation to delay its implementation. Under that provision, high-ranking government workers would have been required to post their financial information on a publicly available online database.

Under a previous delay, Congress called for the National Academy of Public Administration to study the implications of the requirement. The report, released in March, found the provision should be repealed, having found that it could needlessly threaten the safety of government employees abroad, as well as make it difficult to attract and retain talent in the public sector.

The Senate advanced the bill Thursday by unanimous consent, without debate or even briefly describing what it would do. The House signed off on the bill Friday using the same approach.

Under the new law, the beefed-up reporting requirements will still apply to the president, vice president, members of Congress and candidates for Congress. Some presidentially nominated and Senate-confirmed government employees would also still adhere to the new disclosure requirement. The new law also delays the creation of that database until the beginning of 2014.

Versions of the STOCK Act had been introduced for several years, but it was fast-tracked at the Capitol following media reports that suggested members of Congress might have profited from private information obtained during their legislative work. Members singled out in the reports maintained their innocence, but the spotlight spurred quick action on enacting legislation emphasizing that members of Congress be subject to insider trading laws among their disclosure enhancements.