STOCK Act: NAPA Study Seeks Information on Impact of Internet Publication of Financial Information

By John Bellinger
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 4:29 PM

Here's an update on the status of Section 11 of the STOCK Act, the law enacted last year that would have required 28,000 senior executive officials (and senior military officers) to post their financial disclosure forms on the websites of their agency home pages by August 31, 2012, and thereafter to allow the information to sortable and searchable on the Office of Government Ethics website and accessible to nearly seven billion people in the world.

As Lawfare readers will recall, I have been very critical of this short-sighted provision, which was passed without any hearings and that endangers the national security and safety of executive branch officials and their families.   Last July, I organized a letter to Congressional leaders from a bipartisan group of former national security officials expressing grave concern about Section 11.   Responding to concerns raised in our letter and by others, Congress has passed three extensions of the implementation date for Section 11, most recently extending the required internet publication date until April 15, 2013.

Last fall, I suggested to Congressional staff that Congress do some homework on the actual impact of Section 11.   As part of its September extension, Congress directed the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to study the issues raised by website publication of financial disclosure forms and to issue a report with findings and recommendations.  Specifically, the study must "examine the nature, scope, and degree of risk, including risk of harm to national security, law enforcement, or other Federal missions and risk of endangerment, including   to personal safety and security, financial security (such as through identity theft), and privacy, of officers and employees and their family members, that may be posed by website and other publication of financial disclosure forms and associated personal information."  The study must also examine the impact of publication of financial disclosure forms of legislative officials.  The study must be submitted by March 28 -- only two weeks before the April 15 internet publication date (unless that date is again extended).

The  NAPA has assembled a top-quality study group, headed by former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel David Chu.   I have met with the study group, and they are taking their mandate very seriously, including examining whether the previously existing financial disclosure requirements mandated by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 should be revised to reflect advances in technology and concerns about privacy that have arisen since 1978.

The NAPA study group would like to hear from senior executive and military officials who may be affected by Section 11.  The study group is especially interested in any evidence that the requirement to post financial information on-line might cause officials to leave government or to leave or turn down SES service to avoid the disclosure requirements.   The group would also like evidence that the on-line posting requirement might discourage qualified people outside government from considering government employment.  The NAPA study welcomes comments at [email protected].