January 23, 2015
Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker, Faces Arrest on Corruption Charges
The New York Times reports:
Federal authorities are expected to arrest Sheldon Silver, the powerful speaker of the New York State Assembly, on corruption charges on Thursday, people with knowledge of the matter said. The case is likely to throw Albany into disarray at the beginning of a new session.
The investigation that led to the expected charges against Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who has served as speaker for more than two decades, began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013.
Details of the specific charges to be brought against Mr. Silver were unclear on Wednesday night, but one of the people with knowledge of the matter said they stemmed from payments that Mr. Silver received from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes. The total amount of the payments was unclear, but another person has said they were substantial and were made over several years.
Mr. Silver failed to list the payments from the firm, Goldberg & Iryami, on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state, as required.
March 20, 2014
Former Congressional Chief of Staff Sued Over Financial Disclosure Filing Failure
The Legal Times reports: The U.S. Department of Justice is suing a former congressional chief of staff for allegedly failing to file a financial disclosure report. Joseph Hunter, who served as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, never filed a final financial disclosure when he left Congress in January 2009, according to the civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In an email, Hunter said he thought he had filed the disclosure at issue and that "any oversight on my part is purely inadvertent." He said he would be contacting the Justice Department right away to resolve the problem.
From 2009 to 2012, the House Committee on Ethics sent annual letters asking him to send the disclosure, with no success, according to the complaint. The committee sent a final notice in August 2012, which, the Justice Department alleged, Hunter acknowledged receiving by signing a certified mail receipt. Hunter faces a maximum civil penalty of $50,000. Hunter did not have an attorney listed and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. He recently has served as communications director for former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. The case hasn't been assigned to a judge and no hearings are scheduled.
January 02, 2014
Ethics Reform in Local Government
In an effort to bring more sunshine to the Old Dominion, state Del. Rob Krupicka has crafted legislation that would limit the amounts of gifts local and state officials could accept and require regular disclosure in a searchable, online database. It's part of what Krupicka expects to be a larger, bi-partisan move toward ethics reform in Virginia sparked in no small part by the Star Scientific scandal involving outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Krupicka's bill would require lawmakers and local elected officials, along with state and local government officers and employees, to electronically file a monthly gifts reports and quarterly economic interest reports. The reports would be available to the public online in a searchable online database maintained by the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Office.
Further, the legislation would prevent any state or local officer or employee from accepting a single gift worth more than $100 or a combination of gifts with a total value of more than $500 from a single donor within a single filing period.
Arkansas governor asks for lieutenant governor's resignation
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has asked Republican Lieutenant Gov. Mark Darr, the state's second in command, to resign over campaign finance impropriety.
Beebe called Darr on Tuesday to ask for his resignation, according to a spokesman for Beebe, after an Arkansas ethics commission ruled that Darr had broken 11 campaign finance laws since 2010.
After the call, though, Amber Pool, a spokeswoman for Darr, said the lieutenant governor had no intention of stepping down. In the wake of the ethics ruling, Darr admitted he erred on campaign finance filings, signed a letter from the ethics commission that admitted guilt, and agreed to pay $11,000 in fines.
Beebe's resignation call only holds symbolic weight. The popular governor has no authority to force Darr out because both are independent constitutional officers for the state of Arkansas. According to the governor’s spokesman, Matt DeCample, only the state legislature can force Darr to resign.
August 14, 2013
McDonnell Returns "Tangible" Gifts from Donor
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said he has returned all “tangible” gifts that were given to him and his family members by a wealthy political supporter but declined to detail a list of those items.
Rich Galen, a spokesman for McDonnell’s legal team, said Tuesday that McDonnell did not intend to release an itemized accounting of the items returned to Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of a dietary supplement company whose relationship with McDonnell is the subject of state and federal investigations.People familiar with the situation have said Williams’s gifts to the governor’s family included $15,000 worth of high-end clothing purchased for McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and a $6,500 Rolex watch, engraved with the words “71st Governor of Virginia,” that Williams bought for the governor at Maureen McDonnell’s urging. Galen said Tuesday that the Rolex watch, as a tangible gift, was one of the items the governor returned.
July 31, 2013
VA Governor McDonnell says he will return other gifts
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Tuesday that he will return all the gifts from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and indicated for the first time that he was not aware of everything the Star Scientific executive had given to his family.
McDonnell (R) made the comment in a radio interview one week after announcing that he had repaid $120,000 in loans that Williams had made — $70,000 to a real estate company owned by the governor and his sister and $50,000 to first lady Maureen McDonnell.His remarks were his first since last week’s announcement, which was made in a written statement as the governor was en route to Afghanistan to visit Virginia troops. McDonnell said his first priority was to repair the trust with Virginia citizens that may have been lost as a result of the loans and gifts.
July 18, 2013
Prosecutor Finds No Foul by Va. AG for Late Reports
A Richmond prosecutor has cleared Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of criminal wrongdoing for failing to promptly report thousands of dollars in personal gifts he had received years earlier on his required state economic interest statements.
Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring said Thursday there is no evidence that Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, violated any laws with his belated disclosures.
Cuccinelli omitted more than $13,000 worth of gifts including private jet flights and free vacation lodgings from his required state disclosure forms for a period of four years. He amended his filings from 2009 through 2012 in late April, saying he simply overlooked the gifts earlier. Cuccinelli asked Herring to examine whether he'd committed a crime. Among the gifts that slipped Cuccinelli's mind were a $3,000 summer family vacation last year and a catered $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 at the waterside mansion of Jonnie R. Williams Sr., the chief executive of the troubled nutritional supplements manufacturer Star Scientific Inc.
July 10, 2013
McDonnell’s corporation, wife allegedly benefited from $120,000 more from donor
The Washington Post reports: A prominent political donor gave $70,000 to a corporation owned by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his sister last year, and the governor did not disclose the money as a gift or loan, according to people with knowledge of the payments.
The donor, wealthy businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., also gave a previously unknown $50,000 check to the governor’s wife, Maureen, in 2011, the people said.
July 08, 2013
Periodic Transaction Reporting—Lapse of Penalty Waiver
OGE reminder: On July 3, 2012, the requirement that public financial disclosure filers periodically report securities transactions became effective. See 5 U.S.C. app § 103(l); Pub. L. No. 112-105, § 6 (2012).
In light of the significant changes to the financial disclosure system, OGE exercised its authority under 5 U.S.C. app. § 104(d)(2), to waive the statutory late filing fee for unintentionally untimely transaction reports occurring prior to July 3, 2013. See LA-12-04 (Question 13).
This Legal Advisory reminds ethics officials that the blanket waiver for late periodic transaction reports will lapse on July 3, 2013. Agencies may wish to take this opportunity to review the periodic transaction reporting requirements with public filers and emphasize that filers may now become subject to a $200 penalty for late filing.
June 28, 2013
OGE Issues Legal Advisory Regarding the Application of the $200 Penalty Provision to Late Periodic Transaction Reports
On Friday June 28, 2013, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued Legal Advisory, LA-13-09, reminding ethics officials that OGE’s blanket waiver of the $200 late fee for periodic transaction reports will lapse on July 3, 2013.
Once OGE’s website service is restored, you will be able to access this Legal Advisory at: http://www.oge.gov/OGE-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/
June 10, 2013
Comments to OGE 450 Form Proposed Changes
One of our members, Wayne Johnson, would like to point out to ethics officials and members of the public of the opportunity currently being provided to make comments regarding the OGE 450 Form, on or before July 22, 2013.
For more information see Federal Register Notice 78 FR 29753 . See http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-21/pdf/2013-12001.pdf
May 09, 2013
Greenberg Traurig law firm at the center of ‘political intelligence’ case
A lobbyist hears from “very credible sources” that the White House is going to reverse a major health-care proposal. He tells a client in an e-mail, and that person then tells his own clients in a research note.
It sounds like the game of telephone that lobbyists, government officials and even reporters are drawn into every day in Washington. Except in this case, the chain of information may have triggered a spike in trades on Wall Street — and has now led to a government investigation into possible insider trading.
How the lobbyist, who works at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, stepped into this morass offers a window into what has become a routine and profitable practice at law firms and lobbying shops: In addition to their usual work, lobbyists share with financial firms the latest political tidbits they are gathering from sources, sending an e-mail here and there with the latest “political intelligence.” The financial firms value the information because it can inform their investments.
Recent attention has focused on a new breed of companies that offer political intelligence exclusively for investor clients, but some of the country’s most prominent law firms have gotten into the business, too.
May 02, 2013
SEC subpoenas firm, individuals in a case of leaked information
The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued subpoenas to a firm and individuals in connection with the leak last month of a federal funding decision that appeared to cause a surge in stock trading of several major health companies.
The move deepens the government’s scrutiny of the growing “political intelligence” industry, which has been thriving on delivering valuable information from Washington to investors. This relatively new breed of companies capitalizes on the fact that decisions made in Washington — whether a regulator blocking a big merger or a lawmaker tweaking legislation — can create opportunities for stock traders to make money.The latest case emerged April 1 when Height Securities, a Washington-based stock brokerage firm, alerted its clients that the government would soon make a decision favoring private health insurers who participate in a Medicare program. The alert went out 18 minutes before the end of the trading day, sparking a surge in trading in the shares of several major health-care firms, including Humana and Aetna. The official government announcement was made after trading closed for the day.
May 01, 2013
OGE Proposes Changes to OGE Form 201
The comment period for OGE's proposed change to Form 201 is now open, closing June 25, 2013. You may find the proposal at this link:
OGE proposes to modify the title of the OGE Form 201 and add a warning to requestors that intentional falsification of the information required by the form may result in prosecution under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001. OGE is proposing that this renewal request to OMB also cover the fully automated version of the OGE Form 201, available only through the OGE Web site at www.oge.gov
April 15, 2013
President Signs Bill Limiting Online Posting Requirement of the STOCK Act
On April 15, 2013, President Obama signed into law S. 716, a bill that, among other things, limits the STOCK Act’s requirement for online posting of public financial disclosure reports.
The enacted bill limits the STOCK Act’s online posting requirement to the President, the Vice President, and any officer occupying a position at Levels I and II of the Executive Schedule as defined by 5 U.S.C. §§ 5312 and 5313. Approximately 67 officials in the Executive Branch hold such positions.
With regard to e-filing, the bill extends the date by which OGE must develop an e-filing system to January 1, 2014, and eliminates the requirement that the system allow for the searching, sorting and downloading of data contained in the reports.
You can access the full text of S. 716 at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:S.716:
April 12, 2013
Congress Passes Bill Limiting Online Posting Requirement of the STOCK Act; Bill Heads to President
Congress has passed a bill that, among other things, would limit the STOCK Act’s requirement for online posting of public financial disclosure reports that is set to go into effect on April 15, 2013.
If enacted by the President, the bill (S. 716) would limit the STOCK Act’s online posting requirement to the President, the Vice President, and any officer occupying a position at Levels I and II of the Executive Schedule as defined by 5 U.S.C. §§ 5312 and 5313. Approximately 67 officials in the Executive Branch hold such positions.
The bill would also extend the date by which OGE must develop systems to enable the electronic filing of public reports to January 1, 2014, and would eliminate the requirement that the systems allow searching, sorting and downloading of data contained in the reports. The bill will now proceed to the President for his consideration.
April 10, 2013
OGE Letter to Congress Concurs with the NAPA Report
On April 5, 2013, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) sent a letter to congressional leadership concurring with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) study recommendation to indefinitely suspend a STOCK Act provision that would require online posting of the personal financial data of approximately 28,000 federal employees.
A copy of OGE’s letter may be found on OGE’s website at: http://www.oge.gov/About/Legislative-Affairs-and-Budget/Congressional-Correspondence/
April 05, 2013
OGE Issues Legal Advisory Regarding Ethics-Related Legislative Activity from the 112th Congress and Updated Compilation of Ethics Laws
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a Legal Advisory updating relevant legislative activity from the recently ended 112th Congress, including the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 and the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011. The Legal Advisory also discusses other ethics-related provisions of note and trends in legislative activities. For more information, please see Legal Advisory LA-13-03 dated April 4, 2013, http://www.oge.gov/OGE-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/Legal-Advisories/
In addition, OGE has published a newly updated “Compilation of Federal Ethics Laws” that includes all provisions signed into law through January 13, 2013. The compilation includes not only the laws within the jurisdiction of the ethics program, but also related statutes of interest to the Executive Branch ethics programs, such as the Hatch Act. The Compilation may be found on OGE’s website at: http://www.oge.gov/Laws-and-Regulations/Statutes/Compilation-of-Federal-Ethics-Laws/
April 01, 2013
National Academy of Public Administration Releases Report on STOCK Act
On March 28, 2013, in accordance with section 2 of Public Law 112-178, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) submitted an independent study on the impact of the STOCK Act to Congress and the President of the United States.
The five-member Panel of Fellows that conducted the study made the following recommendation: Congress should indefinitely suspend the online posting requirements that are due April 15, 2013, and the unrestricted access to searchable, sortable, downloadable databases, currently planned for October 2013, while continuing implementation of other requirements of the STOCK Act.
Read the NAPA report, The STOCK Act: An Independent Review of the Impact of Providing Personally Identifiable Financial Information Online at http://www.napawash.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/STOCKactFinal1.pdf
January 23, 2013
OGE Issues Legal Advisory Regarding the Periodic Reporting of Spouse and Dependent Children Transactions
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a Legal Advisory explaining that covered Executive Branch employees must file periodic reports of transactions involving separately owned assets of their spouses and dependent children. OGE is in the process of amending the OGE Form 278-T to reflect this requirement. This Advisory amends the guidance provided in OGE LA-12-04. You can access this Legal Advisory, LA-13-01, dated January 18, 2013, at:
January 02, 2013
Reminder: Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013: Include Spouse and Dependent Children Transactions on 278-TJust a reminder that an employee subject to the periodic transaction reporting requirement (278-T) under subsection 103(l) of EIGA must also report any purchase, sale, or exchange of securities by the employee’s spouse or dependent children. The periodic transaction reporting requirements for an employee’s spouse and dependent children covers transactions occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
October 01, 2012
President Signs Amendment to Extend STOCK Act Posting Deadline to December 8th
The Office of Government Ethics reports: On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law S. 3625, which extends the date by which certain Executive Branch public financial disclosure forms must be made available on the internet to December 8, 2012. Subsection 11(a)(1) of the STOCK Act (Public Law 112-105), originally required that by August 31, 2012, public financial disclosure forms filed pursuant to title I of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (EIGA) in calendar year 2012, and in subsequent years, be made available to the public on the official websites of the respective Executive Branch agencies not later than 30 days after such forms were filed. The STOCK Act was amended by S. 3510 (Public Law 112-173) to move this deadline to September 30, 2012, and the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Southern Division subsequently enjoined posting under the STOCK Act until October 31, 2012. Section 1 of S. 3625 extends the effective date of subsection 11(a)(1) of the STOCK Act to December 8, 2012, except for certain high-level filers occupying positions listed at Level I and II of the Executive Schedule.
S. 3625 also directs the National Academy of Public Administration to study the issues raised by website publication of financial disclosure forms and to issue a report with findings and recommendations. In addition, section 3 of S. 3625 clarifies that an employee subject to the periodic transaction reporting requirement under subsection 103(l) of EIGA must also report any purchase, sale, or exchange of securities by the employee’s spouse or dependent children. The periodic transaction reporting requirements for an employee’s spouse and dependent children cover transactions occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
S. 3625 is available in portable document format (PDF) on OGE’s website at: http://www.oge.gov/About/Legislative-Affairs-and-Budget/Ethics-Legislation/
September 14, 2012
Full Opinion of Temporary Injunction of Section 11, STOCK Act
For those interested in reading the full opinion from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, regarding the temporary injunction against implementing Section 11 of the STOCK Act, the link is below.
September 13, 2012
Federal District Court Issues Temporary Injunction Against Section 11 of STOCK ActOn September 13, 2012, the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland Southern Division issued a temporary injunction against implementing section 11 of the STOCK Act until October 31, 2012. The Office of Government Ethics will provide an update by close of business September 14, 2012.
August 17, 2012
President Signs Amendment to Extend STOCK Act August 31st Posting Deadline to September 30th
The Office of Government Ethics announced today that the President signed the amendment to extend the STOCK Act posting requirement to September 30.
August 03, 2012
Deadline to Post Reports Per STOCK Act Extended and Other Related News
The Washington Post reports that the ACLU has sued to stop the online financial disclosure requirement for federal workers. In addition, Congress extended the posting requirement deadline to September 30.
July 13, 2012
Maryland Congressman Voices Security Concerns Re: the STOCK Act
Rep. Chris Van Hollen has voiced concerns over disclosure requirements for federal workers included in the recently passed Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act.
In a letter written to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics on Tuesday, Rep. Van Hollen called himself an “advocate of open and transparent government” and said he supports the disclosure requirements in principle, but pointed to security concerns that should be addressed.
July 03, 2012
Scientists Voice Opposition to the STOCK Act
An article in Government Executive reports that the Association of Scientists, which represents scientists in the National Institutes of Health and others receiving federal research grants, said the STOCK Act will put its members at risk for identity theft and will drive top scholars to the private sector, where they can have more privacy. The organization said the requirements that were in effect prior to the April 4 signing of the STOCK Act are sufficient, and the new provisions are creating superfluous administrative tasks that take away from accomplishing real work.
The group wrote a letter Monday to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee -- Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, respectively -- to voice its concerns.
April 21, 2012
STOCK Act Backlash
A Washington Post article summarizes negative reactions to the STOCK Act. Here's an excerpt:
The Senior Executives Association on Tuesday sent letters to congressional leaders on civil service issues, saying that “intrusive requirements” of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act “are already having a chilling effect on the recruitment and retention of career executives.”
It's not unusual for a reform to have negative side effects. It remains to be seen whether the SES public reporting provisions of the STOCK Act will turn out to be a net plus or net negative. We welcome your thoughts on this issue. One of our Reporters has been on top of this issue for months, but community feedback can only strengthen her efforts.
Use of our "Category" system for organizing archival material may facilitate tracking developments on the STOCK Act:
Issues: Financial Disclosure
Clicking this category name in the list in the left hand column enable instant access to all our posts on this topic.
April 12, 2012
Interesting Washington Post Article on Presidential Candidates 278s
A Washington Post article discussed in depth the OGE 278 (Public Financial Disclosure) requirements for Presidential candidates, including focus on what must be disclosed and when.
April 04, 2012
President signs STOCK Act
"On April 4, 2012, the President signed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) (S. 2038). The Act establishes new requirements for Executive Branch ethics programs, ethics officials, and the thousands of employees who currently file financial disclosure reports pursuant to the Ethics in Government Act. OGE fully supports the Act’s focus on improving transparency and promoting public confidence in government and is carefully analyzing the provisions of the new law. In consultation with DAEOs and other senior agency ethics officials, OGE will issue a series of Legal, Program, and Education Advisories to implement the Act’s provisions.
Questions from agency ethics officials should be directed to the OGE Team that supports your agency. Media and related inquiries should be directed to Vincent Salamone at (202) 482-9292."
See STOCK Act: Download STOCK Act
March 22, 2012
STOCK Act passes Senate and heads to President
POLITICO reports (3/22/12 2:03pm):
After weeks of delays, the Senate on Thursday sent a bill banning congressional insider trading to President Barack Obama for his expected signature.
The Senate voted 96 to 3 to pass a watered-down STOCK Act, which would bar members of Congress, their staff and some federal workers from profiting from non-public information obtained through their jobs.
- Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74364.html
- Read CBS Story: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57402604-503544/congress-passes-scaled-back-stock-act/ (discussing drop of additional lobbyist registration amendment).
- Read Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/stock-act-senate-insider-trading-ban_n_1373081.html
- See OGE side-by-side comparison of House and Senate versions. http://www.oge.gov/About/Legislative-Affairs-and-Budget/Congressional-Correspondence/NEW--OGE-Comparison-of-Certain-Provisions-of-the-Senate-and-House-Versions-of-the-Stop-Trading-on-Congressional-Knowledge-Act-(STOCK-Act)(S--2038)/
March 21, 2012
Federal Times reports on possible STOCK Act vote
The Federal Times reports that the Senate may vote on the STOCK Act as early as Thursday morning. See full article at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120320/CONGRESS02/203200306/1001.
March 10, 2012
More Discussion of the Stock Act
The Washington Post ran an article detailing OGE's plan to post the public financial disclosure reports of Presidentially-Appointed, Senate-Confirmed employees on its web site, as soon as next week. It also discusses some of the details in the Stock Act.
March 09, 2012
Checklists, Other Aids for OGE Form 450 Review?
If March 8 is not too late for OGE to distribute a belated though still welcome e-mail on the subject "OGE Resources Available to Assist Ethics Officials Reviewing OGE Form 450," then maybe it's not too late for us to issue the following query:
Have any ethics offices developed their own checkists or other materials to facilitate review of OGE Form 450s?
If so, we would be glad to help you share them with other ethics officials.
Edited March 12 to correct typos.
March 05, 2012
Draft STOCK Act Would Increase Senior Manager Financial Disclosures
Federal Times suggests that thousands of government employees could be adversely affected by the proposed STOCK Act:
The financial disclosure forms for at least 28,000 senior federal civilians and military officers would be posted on the Internet under a bill now moving through Congress.
The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act , already passed by the House, would require that financial disclosure forms be posted on a government website. Those who fill out called Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Form 278 include the president and vice president, presidential appointees, Senior Executive Service members, and general and flag officers. The forms, which are filed annually, are typically available only in paper form in response to a request.
Senate language that would include even SF-450 forms is expected to be deleted, but senior managers are concerned:
Putting the forms on the Internet would appear to be "a gross violation of the spirit of the Privacy Act," Bonosaro and SEA General Counsel William Bransford said in a recent letter to Senate leaders. ...
Supervisors could be subject to "unwarranted personal scrutiny by their subordinates, causing tension and problems in the workplace," they wrote, while foreign interests, including terrorists, could get access to information on federal employees serving abroad, Bonosaro and Bransford said.
February 29, 2012
OGE's side-by-side comparision of the STOCK Act
It is worthy to take a look at the Office of Government Ethics side-by-side comparison of the various versions of the STOCK Act, which could create a public, sort and searchable, database of financial disclosure information in an effort to stymie insider trading concerns. See Download S2038 side-by-side
December 01, 2011
Govt attorney pleads guilty to conflict of interest
Consumer Products Safety Commission attorney plead guilty to a conflict of interest violation and filing false statements on his "ethics forms." The charges stem from his claim to have “Insider Knowledge” in advertising his private law practice and his failure to disclose this outside business on his disclsoure reports. He also represented a private client before the Federal Government.
Read the full DOJ press release, see http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/Public-Affairs/press_releases/press08/GovernmentLawyerGuiltyofConflictofInterestandFilingFalseDisclosureForms.html.
October 23, 2011
IT Contractor's Security Lapse on Disclosure Forms Creates Big Headaches for SEC
This morning's New York Times reports:
Two years ago, the S.E.C. began monitoring its employees’ investments more closely to allay public concern about possible conflicts of interest. Until then, its ethics office had encouraged employees to police themselves by checking a limited database of prohibited transactions.
The new system required employees to use a more comprehensive database, the Ethics Program System, to clear their securities transactions in advance and to record details about their financial holdings. To manage E.P.S., the agency hired Financial Tracking Technologies of Riverside, Conn., which provides similar services for money managers and large public companies.
At the time, the S.E.C. assured its employees that their brokerage account numbers and other financial data would be safe. The S.E.C.’s security personnel, the agency said, would test and audit the system. Besides, only “a small number of employees at the contractor” would have access to E.P.S., and those employees would undergo rigorous background checks, according to an e-mail sent to S.E.C. employees in the fall of 2009.
As it turns out, the IT contractor did not fulfill its security representations. The Times article describes the SEC's efforts to contain the problem and prevent similar issues. A National Treasury Employees Union representative noted:
This is particularly disturbing since the S.E.C. apparently had no mechanism to ensure that the outside contractor was maintaining the appropriate level of privacy and security in handling this private data.
By this time our more thoughtful ethics official readers will be asking themselves:
How does my agency's security for financial disclosure information in electronic format stack up?
September 07, 2011
Determining Who Should File SF 450
Think maybe you are requiring too many people to file SF 450 forms? Not enough?
One place to seek help is the analytical aid OGE released in 2009.
Update: With today's upgrade of the OGE website, the material is at a different URL. Thanks to Patrick Sheperd for the tip.
July 01, 2011
OGE updates regs for gift reporting
The Office of Government Ethics issued its final rule (technical amendment) increasing the financial disclosure reporting threshold for gifts from $335 to $350, to correspond with the Foreign Gifts & Decorations Act. See 5 CFR 2634.304 and 2634.907(g). The rule is effective July 1, 2011, and retroactive to January 1, 2011. The rule also increases the threshold for exclusion for individual items from $135 to $140. The amendment also increases the gift exception ceiling for non-sponsor gifts of free attendance at widely attended gatherings. See 5 CFR 2635.204(g).
See Fed. Reg. notice at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-07-01/pdf/2011-16642.pdf.
June 23, 2011
Former Army Contracting Officials Charged with ... Filing False Ethics Forms
A Justice press release reports that a former Army contracting official and his spouse were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the US, filing false tax statements, and filing false statements on their Government ethics financial disclosure documents. See full press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/June/11-tax-821.html.
May 18, 2011
President's 2010 Public Financial Disclosure Report Released
Cnn.com ran an article this morning that discusses the changes to President Obama's investments, as reflected on his 2010 public financial disclosure report, released Monday. Among the biggest changes from last year's report- more college savings in his 529 plans and large investments in U.S. Treasury securities. The President and Vice-President's reports are posted on the White House web site.
May 10, 2011
Interesting articles on Congressional Financial Disclosures
Amanda Becker authors an interesting article about Congressional financial disclosure requirements and penalties. See full article at http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_119/financial-disclosure-congress-205462-1.html. She previously published another article on the same revision of the instruction manual from the House Ethics Committee, which avoided including same-sex spouse interests as a reportable information. See http://www.rollcall.com/issues/56_117/financial-disclosure-same-sex-couples-205356-1.html?pos=adp.
For access to the new House Ethics Committee guidance, see: http://ethics.house.gov/Subjects/List.aspx?subid=6
May 03, 2011
Confirmation Process Reforms Proposed
It's hard to overstate the extent to which the confirmation process has become a mess for everyone involved; presidents are responsible for filling thousands of positions, nominees are forced to endure endless background checks and intense personal scrutiny, and appointees -- even minor ones -- face the prospect of needless, partisan obstruction in the Senate. Over the years, a bevy of experts have offered a stream of suggestions on how to reform the process, but they tend to fall on deaf ears, for mostly straightforward reasons. Simply put, legislators are incredibly loath to give up influence, particularly when it affords them an opportunity to pressure the administration; it's not rare for presidential appointees to become bargaining chips in legislative fights, either as hostages (to be used against the White House) or as sweeteners (from the president) to placate lawmakers.
April 20, 2011
Resolving Conflicts If Google Exec Appointed to Cabinet
An IEC member tipped us off to a wonderful CNN article about conflicts of interest implicated by a possible appointment of Google Chairman Eric Google to be Secretary of Commerce. Here's an excerpt:
"Putting it in a blind trust would be hopelessly ineffective," said Alan Morrison, professor at George Washington Law School. "It's the worst kind of fig leaf, because it's not 'blind' in any sense of the word. What's Schmidt going to say? 'Do I own Google? Really?'"
The Office of Government Ethics mandates that employees of the executive branch can't own more than $15,000 of a stock or asset that would conflict with their work. Going from $5 billion to $15,000 isn't going to happen in a day.
To get around that requirement, the OGE allows people in conflict to recuse themselves from certain activities. That means even after his Google shares are put in trust, Schmidt would still have to recuse himself if a conflict arises with Google.
The good news for Schmidt is that the Department of Commerce doesn't deal all that heavily in Google's businesses.
Articles about high-profile, real-life occurrences make some of the best training material. It's hard to imagine a better example than this to illustrate the OGE 278, financial disclosure and divestiture of assets.
IEC Journal lives or dies by reader contributions, so keep us in mind when you come across something of interest to the community, especially something this useful.
February 13, 2011
What Information to Report on OGE Form 450
Not sure what should be reported on the OGE Form 450?
Here is a reformatted version of a resource list Mark Stone distributed last year. As always, we welcome reader suggested additions and improvements:
- The Confidential Financial Disclosure Report form (OGE Form 450). This contains some very good instructions.
- OGE's Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) sections, one for filers of the OGE Form 450, and one is for ethics officials who review the OGE Form 450.
- OGE's Guidance for Reviewers of the OGE Form 450, Part I (Assets & Income) (2008).
- DAEO-Gram entitled “Diversified and Sector Mutual Funds.” (August 25, 2000). Contains guidance on how to determine whether a mutual fund is a “diversified mutual fund” (which does not have to be reported) or a “sector mutual fund” (which does have to be reported). At the end of the memo are two helpful lists (lists of examples of each type of fund).
- Public Financial Disclosure: A Guide to Reporting Selected Financial Instruments (2008). Contains guidance on how to report 20 sophisticated financial assets (such as American Depositary Receipts and Phantom Stock). Originally intended as guidance for the Public Financial Disclosure Report (SF 278), it can also be useful when completing or reviewing the OGE Form 450.
- 5 C.F.R. 2634.90
February 11, 2011
Former Staff Member in U.S. House of Representatives Convicted on Corruption Charges
A jury found a former staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives guilty on corruption charges relating to his acceptance of an all-expenses paid trip to Game One of the 2003 World Series. See DOJ Press Release at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-crm-176.html. Charges included lying on his financial disclosure about the gift from a lobbyist.
January 25, 2011
Thomas to amend financial disclosures for past 13 years
Supreme Court Justice Thomas neglected to include it, as required, on the report of his spous's positions with Michigan's Hillsdale College, the Heritage Foundation and the Republican leadership in the House. Thomas blamed the error on misunderstanding the filing instructions. See Washington Post article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/24/AR2011012404092.html or CNN article at http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/24/thomas.financial.disclosure/index.html.
To view Supreme Court Justices' financial disclosures see http://moneyline.cq.com/flatfiles/editorialFiles/moneyLine/reference/scotus/scotus.html.
January 16, 2011
SF 450 Review Checklist
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was gracious enough to provide their formatted user-friendly, one-page checklist to help with OGE Form 450 reviews. It is based on their interpretation of materials and notes from an OGE course.
We very much appreciate PHMSA's generous spirt, and we strongly encourage other IEC members to share their similar work products. We can all operate more efficiently if we are not constantly reinventing the wheel. We have been receiving many more user contributions this month. Please help continue this desirable trend!