I had mentioned earlier that some federal employees were resisting new disclosure requirements concerning their financial information. This concerns the STOCK Act, a law passed in light of stories outlining serious financial advantages many high-level Congressional officials enjoyed due to inside information. The bill was amended to include over 28,000 federal employees The scientists (and other federal employees) subject to the act have argued that previous financial disclosure requirements were sufficient to guard against conflicts of interest, and that posting such information online put them at risk for identity theft and fraud.
Several scientists are taking these claims to court. Per ScienceInsider, in a case filed last week, several employee associations are seeking an injunction from disclosing the financial information online, specifically on a website that has no controls in place to reduce the risk of that financial information being abused. (As the complaint notes, this financial information has been publicly available on request, and other controls were in place to minimize the risk of identity fraud and theft.)
The information in question is incredibly detailed, include stocks, mutual funds, real estate, and other assets. A far cry from the publicly available salary information for Congressional staff. The STOCK Act would also establish searchable databases for all filed financial information forms.
While this presumes I know the intentions of the people behind the STOCK Act, it seems plausible that these unintentional consequences come from the relative speed in which the bill (and the amendment that brought in all the federal employees) was drafted and passed. Many bills over the last several years have included setting up searchable databases that would be publicly available. Perhaps it’s because most of these databases have been about federal programs rather than federal employees that the security and privacy of personal financial information was not given due consideration. I would hope that some kind of compromise can be found, compromise that makes it possible to maintain transparency and security in a manner that used to be the case.
To that end, Congress has passed a law delaying the implementation of these new reporting requirements by 30 days (moving the deadline from August 31 to September 30). That law was given to the President today, and should be signed shortly. Hopefully the court will rule soon on the motion in the case for a preliminary injunction.