New proposal means some feds could skip financial disclosure requirement

Federal employees at General Schedule 13 or below would no longer be required to automatically submit financial disclosure statements, according to a new proposed rule from the Office of Government Ethics.

“The revised regulations will permit the designated agency ethics official to make those determinations for employees who are GS-13s or below and meet the criteria stated in the proposed rule,” OGE said.

The ethics rule applies to non-manager federal employees who may contribute to an agency’s policy, procurement or acquisition.

Agencies can determine whether employees at GS-13 to GS-15 levels should submit financial disclosures on a case-by-case basis, the rule said.

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For example, a Schedule C appointee with a classified GS-14 position could ask the agency for an exclusion from the financial disclosure requirement.

“The position description indicates that the employee’s duties involve the analysis of policy options and the presentation of findings and recommendations to the superiors,” the rule said. “On the basis of this position description, the requested exception is denied.”

Most of OGE’s proposed changes are an attempt to clarify language and maintain consistency with the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.

Under the STOCK Act, high-level officials and some senior executives in certain positions must show that their personal financial activities don’t conflict with their work at the agency. The law was originally designed to deter members of Congress and some 28,000 senior federal employees from insider trading .

Congress in 2013 repealed certain aspects of the STOCK Act after the National Academy of Public Administration and Senior Executives Association took issue with an initial requirement that would have posted financial information for affected federal employees on a publicly searchable online database.

OGE also suggested raising the threshold for reportable income from$200 to $1,000. In addition, it proposed ending the requirement that filers report their agreement to participate in a defined contribution plan if they are no longer contributing to the plan.

“OGE believes these changes will simplify reporting requirements for filers without reducing the ability of ethics officials to complete a conflicts analysis,” the agency wrote in the proposed rule.

The written comment period for OGE’s proposed rule ends Dec. 5.