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Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
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U.S. Workers Alarmed by Inside Trading Law

WASHINGTON (CN) - A law meant to keep elected officials from inside trading exposes civilian government employees to terrorists, criminals and ID theft by posting their financial information on the Internet, the workers claim in court.

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and four government employees sued the secretary and sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate and the clerk of the House, in Federal Court.

Two plaintiffs are high-level employees in the Government Accountability Office and two work or worked for the Congressional Research Service.

They challenge the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, passed by Congress in April 2012.

The Act requires that "by April 15, 2013, the Secretary of the Senate, the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives must ensure that detailed financial data regarding the assets and financial transactions of these non-elected Legislative Branch employees and theirs spouses and dependent children will be posted on the Internet."

The complaint states: "The STOCK Act was introduced in response to news stories and allegations that members of Congress were using 'insider information' to make money and investments, but, as members of Congress, they purportedly could not be held liable for insider trading.

"As passed by Congress and signed by the President, and as subsequently amended, Section 8 of the STOCK Act amended the Ethics in Government Act to require: (1) additional reporting requirements for securities and real property; (2) Internet publication of unredacted employee Financial Disclosure reports by April 15, 2013; and (3) Internet publication within 18 months of fully searchable and sortable databases containing the Financial Disclosure reports."

As a result, "Details of their financial affairs, and the financial affairs of their spouses and dependent children, will be available to literally anyone in the world who has access to the Internet," the plaintiffs say. "No record will be made of who views the information. No restrictions will be placed on how the information will be used or distributed. Simply because they are employed by the Legislative Branch, those filers will suffer the permanent loss of their confidential financial information.

"The irreparable harm that the plaintiffs (and the members of plaintiff IFPTE) will suffer include:

"The permanent and irretrievable loss of their and their spouses' financial privacy;

"The likelihood of identity theft and phishing;

"The risk of kidnapping of themselves or family members while travelling internationally;

"The risk that information regarding non-traditional forms of investment may lead to theft;

"The risk of retribution by current or former employees;

"Impairment of their agency's ability to attract and retain highly qualified employees in the future, due to the intense public scrutiny of personal financial information invited by the STOCK Act's internet publication requirement." (Parentheses in complaint.)

The plaintiffs claim that, no thanks to the STOCK Act, just about anyone has access to their private financial information, because "no login or identification will be required to obtain internet access to the internet postings to be made by April 15, 2013. No login or identification will be required to view, search, and sort the data contained in the reports to be posted on the Senate and House websites. A login may be required for downloading data from the Senate and House websites, but it is child's play to create an Internet login that reveals nothing about one's identity."

They seek declaratory judgment that Section 8 of the STOCK Act is unconstitutional, and an immediate and permanent injunction preventing the government from publishing their financial information on the internet.

They are represented by Jack McKay, with Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman.

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