These cases challenged a provision of the STOCK (“Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge”) Act, a 2012 statute that, among other things, required federal agencies to post detailed information about the personal financial holdings and transactions of nearly 30,000 senior federal employees on the Internet for the whole world to see. Our lawsuit asserted that the constitutional right to informational privacy protected our clients against this intrusion.
We filed the Senior Executives case in August 2012. In September, a federal district court in Maryland issued a preliminary injunction, finding that Internet publication of our clients’ personal financial data would probably violate their constitutional rights and would injure them irreparably. We filed the IFPTE case in November, bringing parallel claims on behalf of legislative branch employees covered by the Act.
In March 2013, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the Senior Executives case, rejecting their argument that the government had a compelling interest in publishing this data online. But in April, it granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the IFPTE case on the ground that a suit against congressional officers can be filed only in D.C. We promptly re-filed that case in federal court in D.C.
Meanwhile, Congress commissioned a study and report on this issue from the National Academy of Public Administration, which was issued in March 2013. It concluded that “posting personal financial information as required by the act does indeed impose unwarranted risk to national security and law enforcement, as well as threaten agency missions, individual safety, and privacy,” and urged Congress to “indefinitely suspend the online posting requirements” of the STOCK Act. In April, Congress passed legislation doing just that, and on April 15, 2014, President Obama signed it. On April 17, we voluntarily dismissed both lawsuits.
In May 2014, the Clerk of the House of Representatives (a defendant in the IFPTE case) moved to vacate the court’s April opinion “insofar as it discusses the application of sovereign immunity to defendants other than the United States.” We opposed that motion, and in August the court denied it, principally on the ground that the court’s opinion “made a determination as to a broader question of law that has value to the legal community as a whole. The Clerk’s interest in vacating adverse legal precedent does not outweigh this public interest.”
The Clerk appealed that decision, but in December 2014 the court of appeals agreed with us that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Clerk’s motion to vacate.