Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > Top FDA Officials' Financial Records Could Soon be Made Publicly Available

Top FDA Officials' Financial Records Could Soon be Made Publicly Available

Posted 19 September 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

Tens of thousands of high-level staff members at all federal agencies, including hundreds at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will soon be required to publicly disclose their financial information under the terms of a recently passed piece of legislation known as the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, reports The Washington Post.

But the impending deadline has more than a few federal officials, including numerous scientists, crying foul over what they see as the potential for identity theft and a needless invasion of their privacy.

On 13 September, US District Judge Alexander Williams temporarily blocked the law, which had been scheduled to come into effect at the end of September. Among Williams' biggest concerns, reports The Washington Post, was that the law infringed upon worker's right to privacy by requiring them to post in-depth financial information, including bank, retirement, stock and asset holdings.

While the act was originally aimed at stopping insider trading based on privileged information to which legislators have access, the legislation came to include federal employees as well, and was eventually passed without a chance for a public hearing.

Security officials have also weighed in, saying the disclosure of information for the additional employees, many of whom act in a more hands-on capacity than political appointees do, could pose a security risk to the government's activities.

Companies, individuals or governments could use the information as leverage, for example, and the information could provide a means for aggrieved entities to target the families of federal workers.

Opponents of the law argue that procedures to root out conflicts of interest already exist, and are better left to private investigators rather than the general public. Information is set to be published online where anyone could access it.

In addition, opponents also say that the law could make it more difficult to hire competent staff, especially those coming from the private sector who may have more experience but also more assets, and may cause some current employees to leave rather than subject their finances to public scrutiny.

Despite the complaints, disrupting the passage of the law could prove difficult. Congress goes on recess for the election starting on Thursday, 20 September, and is unlikely to come back into session before then barring an emergency. That lack of action places much of the onus for action on the courts, which have thus far been sympathetic to the litigant's claims.

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