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Financial Disclosure Frequently Asked Questions

General Principles

Who has to file these reports?
Generally, you may be required to disclose your financial interests for one of two reasons: you are a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) or holding some other position classified above the GS-15 level; or the nature of your duties are sensitive enough to raise an increased likelihood of a conflict of interest. If you are a member of the SES (or acting in an SES job for more than 60 days), then you are subject to the Public Financial Disclosure (SF 278) requirements, which are highly detailed and, as the name implies, publicly available. If you are a General Schedule employee, you may be subject to the Confidential Financial Disclosure (OGE Form 450) requirements which are much less intrusive, and confidential.

Why do I have to file?
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 subjected senior executives and other high-ranking officials to financial disclosure as part of the post-Watergate ethics reforms. That statute was amended by the Ethics in Government Act of 1989, which was part of the post-Operation Ill Wind ethics reforms, and applied financial disclosure requirements to some General Schedule employees. Both types of financial disclosure are regulated by the Office of Government Ethics and are Government-wide requirements. NASA has issued NPD 1900.1D to provide guidance on the application of these rules. 

Public Financial Disclosure

When do I have to file?
On May 15 every year (annual report), or within 30 days of assuming (new entrant report) or leaving (termination report)  a public filer position. There are exceptions if you're coming from or going to another public filer position. 

What if I file late?
If you file more than 30 days late, you pay $200. NASA does not have the authority to waive this penalty, but extensions of the filing date may be granted. 

There's just no way I'm going to get my information together in time this year. Can I get an extension?
Yes. Reviewing officials may extend the filing date for up to 45 days for good cause (so you've got to have a reason why you need the extension). Extensions beyond 45 days may only be granted by the Office of Government Ethics. Contact your reviewing official for procedures to request extensions. Send a written request to R. Andrew Falcon.

What do I have to report?
You are required to disclose your financial interests as well as the interests of your spouse and minor children, including the value of those interests, either in a range or in the actual amount, depending on the type of asset. Public filers must report -- 

  • any interest in property held in a trade or business or for investment or the production of income (real estate, stocks, bonds, securities, futures contracts, beneficial interests in trusts or estates, pensions and annuities, mutual funds, etc.) that meet reporting thresholds;
  • earned income, retirement benefits, honoraria and any other non-investment income;
  • gifts and reimbursements that meet reporting thresholds;
  • liabilities (personal loans from certain family members, a mortgage on a personal residence, automobile, furniture and appliance loans, revolving charge accounts that do not exceed $10,000 at the close of the reporting period are excluded from reporting);
  • agreements or arrangements with respect to future employment, leaves of absence and continuation of payments or benefits from a former employer; and,
  • outside positions such as an officer, director, trustee, general partner, proprietor, employee, consultant, etc., of any organization (but positions with religious, social, fraternal or political entities are excluded, as are solely honorary positions).

The SF-278 is a complex document--too complex for a detailed discussion of the many issues that can arise in reporting. Read the instructions carefully, and if you have questions, please contact your Counsel's office. 

Confidential Financial Disclosure

Who has to file?
If you are a General Schedule employee who can affect the interests of a non-Federal entity, such as through procurement responsibility, you may be required to file confidential financial disclosure reports (OGE Form 450)

How is this different from what the SES'ers have to do?
This reporting system generally tracks the approach of the public disclosure system with some differences. Ranges of values of assets and income from assets are not required to be reported nor are interests in or income from bank accounts, money market mutual funds, U.S. obligations and Government securities. The most notable difference is that confidential reports are not available to the public. 

When do I have to file?
On October 30 of every year (annual report) and within 30 days of entering (new entrant) a confidential filer position. As with the SF-278, there is an exception if you filed in your previous job. 

Is there a penalty for late filing?
No. 

What about extensions?
Reviewing officials can extend the filing date for up to 90 days. 

What do I have to report?
1)  Most assets over $1000 must be listed in Part I, including those of your spouse or dependent children. This can include stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, including those held in IRAs, 401(k) plans and life insurance variable annuities; business and employment; and investment life insurance, notes, real estate (other than a personal residence), and pensions. 

Special note on IRAs: IRAs and similar plans are not really assets themselves, but are types of accounts that can have stock, mutual fund, or other investments. It’s the assets inside these accounts that can give rise to conflicts of interest, so simply listing “Fidelity IRA,” “Boeing 401(k),” or “Hartford variable annuity” is inadequate.  Please be sure to identify the contents of the account.  In the example above, one way of reporting the IRA would be to enter “Fidelity IRA (Magellan, Contra, and Select Health Care funds).” 

2)  Mutual funds must be identified by the name of the specific fund. 

The instructions on the OGE 450 state that “[y]ou must…always indicate the full name of the fund in which you hold shares, not just the general family fund name.”  The Office of Government Ethics has issued regulations which establish that a conflict of interest can arise from ownership of “sector funds,” which are funds that invest in, among other things, a single industry or the bonds of a single state.  Because of this new rule, there is a difference between, for example, “Fidelity Magellan” and “Fidelity Select Defense,” so simply reporting “Fidelity mutual funds” is inadequate.  Please be sure to report the full name of each individual mutual fund. 

3) In order to reduce the burden of financial disclosure on individuals whose report would  be identical to that filed the previous year, the OGE 450-A, Certificate of No New Interests, has been developed as an Alternative.  If you filed an OGE 450 last year, and there have been no changes to the interests and liabilities reported on the form, and you haven’t changed Government jobs since then, you may be able to use the new OGE 450-A. You may always use the OGE 450, but, if you can make the certifications required by the form, you may opt for the OGE 450-A instead. Every fourth year (i.e., 2000, 2004, 2008, etc.), a new 450 is required, even if there have still been no changes. 

Is there anything I do not have to report?

1)  Savings and checking accounts, money market accounts, or certificates of deposit. 

2)  U.S. Government obligations, such as Treasury bonds, bills and notes. 

3)  Income from U.S. Government employment or the Thrift Savings Plan. 

4)  Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds valued at under $1000. 

5)  The actual value of any asset

This is a brief discussion of the most common OGE 450 issues. If you have a question not covered here, contact a member of the HQ Ethics Team by e-mail to ethicsteam@hq.nasa.gov or by phone at (202) 358-2465. You may contact a Center Ethics Official by e-mail or by the phone number listed.