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Technical Updating Amendments to Executive Branch Financial Disclosure and Standards of Ethical Conduct Regulations

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Office of Government Ethics.

ACTION:

Final rule; technical amendments.

SUMMARY:

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is updating its executive branch regulation on financial disclosure to reflect the retroactive statutory increase of the reporting thresholds for gifts and travel reimbursements. OGE is also raising the widely attended gatherings nonsponsor gifts exception dollar ceiling tied to this threshold under the executive branchwide standards of ethical conduct regulation, but this change is not retroactive.

DATES:

Effective date: This final rule is effective May 18, 2017.

Applicability date: The amendments to 5 CFR 2634.304 and 2634.907 are applicable as of January 1, 2017.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Patrick J. Lightfoot, Assistant Counsel, General Counsel and Legal Policy Division, Office of Government Ethics, Telephone: 202-482-9300; TTY: 800-877-8339; FAX: 202-482-9237.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is amending pertinent sections of its executive branchwide ethics regulations on financial disclosure and standards of ethical conduct, as codified at 5 CFR parts 2634 and 2635, in order to update certain reporting and other thresholds.

Increased Gifts and Travel Reimbursements Reporting Thresholds

First, OGE is revising its executive branch financial disclosure regulation at 5 CFR part 2634 applicable as of January 1, 2017, to reflect the increased reporting thresholds for gifts, reimbursements and travel expenses for both the public and confidential executive branch financial disclosure systems. These increases conform to the statutorily mandated public disclosure reporting thresholds under section 102(a)(2)(A) & (B) of the Ethics in Government Act as amended, 5 U.S.C. app. section 102(a)(2)(A) and (B), (Ethics Act) and are extended to confidential disclosure reporting by OGE's regulation. Under the Ethics Act, the gifts and reimbursements reporting thresholds are tied to the dollar amount for the “minimal value” threshold for foreign gifts as the General Services Administration (GSA) periodically redefines it.

In a January 12, 2017, Federal Management Regulation Bulletin, GSA raised the “minimal value” under the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, 5 U.S.C. 7342, to $390 for the three-year period 2017-2019 (from the prior level of $375). See Gen. Servs. Admin., FMR B-41, Foreign Gift and Decoration Minimal Value (2017) (revising retroactively to January 1, 2017, the foreign gifts minimal value definition as codified at 41 CFR 102-42.10).

Accordingly, applicable as of that same date, OGE is increasing the thresholds for reporting of gifts and travel reimbursements from any one source in 5 CFR 2634.304 and 2634.907(g) (and as illustrated in the examples following those sections, including appropriate adjustments to gift values therein) of its executive branch financial disclosure regulation to “more than $390” for the aggregation threshold for reporting and “$156 or less” for the de minimis exception for gifts and reimbursements that do not have to be counted towards the aggregate threshold. As noted, these regulatory increases implement the underlying statutory increases effective January 1, 2017.

OGE will continue to adjust the gifts and travel reimbursements reporting threshold in its part 2634 regulation in the future as needed in light of GSA's redefinition of “minimal value” every three years for foreign gifts purposes. See OGE's prior three-year adjustment of those regulatory reporting thresholds, as published at 79 FR 28605-28606 (May 19, 2014) (for 2014-2016, the aggregate reporting level was more than $375, with a $150 or less de minimis exception).

Increased Dollar Ceiling for the Exception for Nonsponsor Gifts of Free Attendance at Widely Attended Gatherings

In addition, OGE is increasing, from $375 to $390, the exception ceiling for nonsponsor gifts of free attendance at widely attended gatherings under the executive branch standards of ethical conduct regulation, as codified at 5 CFR 2635.204(g)(3) (and as illustrated in the examples following paragraph (g)). This separate regulatory change is effective upon publication in the Federal Register, on May 18, 2017. As OGE noted in the preambles to the proposed and final rules on such nonsponsor gifts, that ceiling is tied to the financial disclosure gifts reporting threshold. See 60 FR 31415-31418 (June 15, 1995) and 61 FR 42965-42970 (August 20, 1996). The nonsponsor gift ceiling was last raised in the May 2014 OGE rulemaking noted in the preceding paragraph. Thus, OGE is again increasing the nonsponsor gift ceiling to match the further increase in the gifts/travel reimbursements reporting thresholds. The other requirements for acceptance of such nonsponsor gifts, including an agency interest determination and expected attendance by more than 100 persons, remain unchanged.

II. Matters of Regulatory Procedure

Administrative Procedure Act

Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b), as Director of the Office of Government Ethics, I find that good cause exists for waiving the general notice of proposed rulemaking and public comment procedures as to these technical amendments. The notice and comment procedures are being waived because these amendments concern matters of agency organization, procedure and practice. It is also in the public interest that the accurate and up-to-date information be contained in the affected sections of OGE's regulations as soon as possible. The increase in the reporting thresholds for gifts and reimbursements is based on a statutory formula and lessens the reporting burden. Therefore, Start Printed Page 22736that regulatory revision is retroactively applicable as of January 1, 2017, when the change became effective under the Ethics Act.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

As the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, I certify under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6) that this final rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities because it primarily affects current Federal executive branch employees.

Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. chapter 35) does not apply because this regulation does not contain information collection requirements that require approval of the Office of Management and Budget.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

For purposes of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. chapter 5, subchapter II), this final rule would not significantly or uniquely affect small governments and will not result in increased expenditures by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more (as adjusted for inflation) in any one year.

Congressional Review Act

The Office of Government Ethics has determined that this amendatory rulemaking is a nonmajor rule under the Congressional Review Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 8) and will submit a report thereon to the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and Government Accountability Office in accordance with that law at the same time this rulemaking document is sent to the Office of the Federal Register for publication in the Federal Register.

Executive Order 13563 and Executive Order 12866

Executive Orders 13563 and 12866 direct agencies to assess all costs and benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select the regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. In promulgating this rulemaking, OGE has adhered to the regulatory philosophy and the applicable principles of regulation set forth in Executive Orders 12866 and 13563. The rule has not been reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget because it is not a significant regulatory action for the purposes of Executive Order 12866.

Executive Order 12988

As Director of the Office of Government Ethics, I have reviewed this rule in light of section 3 of Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform, and certify that it meets the applicable standards provided therein.

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List of Subjects

5 CFR Part 2634

  • Certificates of divestiture
  • Conflict of interests
  • Government employees
  • Penalties
  • Reporting and recordkeeping requirements
  • Trusts and trustees

5 CFR Part 2635

  • Conflict of interests
  • Executive branch standards of ethical conduct
  • Government employees
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Approved: May 12, 2017.

Walter M. Shaub, Jr.,

Director, U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

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For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics is amending 5 CFR parts 2634 and 2635 as follows:

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PART 2634—EXECUTIVE BRANCH FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE, QUALIFIED TRUSTS, AND CERTIFICATES OF DIVESTITURE

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1. The authority citation for part 2634 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. App. (Ethics in Government Act of 1978); 26 U.S.C. 1043; Pub. L. 101-410, 104 Stat. 890, 28 U.S.C. 2461 note (Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990), as amended by Sec. 31001, Pub. L. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996) and Sec. 701, Pub. L. 114-74 (Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015); E.O. 12674, 54 FR 15159, 3 CFR, 1989 Comp., p. 215, as modified by E.O. 12731, 55 FR 42547, 3 CFR, 1990 Comp., p. 306.

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2. Amend § 2634.304 as follows:

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a. Remove the dollar amount “$375” in paragraphs (a) and (b) and in examples 1, 3, and 4 following paragraph (d) and add in its place in each instance the dollar amount “$390”;

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b. Remove the dollar amount “$150” in paragraph (d) and in examples 1 and 2 following paragraph (d) and add in its place in each instance the dollar amount “$156”; and

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c. Remove the dollar amount “$190” in example 3 following paragraph (d) and add in its place the dollar amount “$200”.

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3. Amend § 2634.907 as follows:

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a. Remove the dollar amount of “$375” in paragraphs (g)(1) and (2) and in the example to paragraph (g) and add in its place in each instance the dollar amount “$390”; and

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b. Remove the dollar amount “$150” in paragraph (g)(3) and in the example to paragraph (g) and add in its place in each instance the dollar amount “$156”.

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PART 2635—STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

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4. The authority citation for part 2635 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 5 U.S.C. 7301, 7351, 7353; 5 U.S.C. App. (Ethics in Government Act of 1978); E.O. 12674, 54 FR 15159, 3 CFR, 1989 Comp., p. 215, as modified by E.O. 12731, 55 FR 42547, 3 CFR, 1990 Comp., p. 306.

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5. Amend § 2635.204 by removing the dollar amount “$375” in paragraph (g)(3)(iv) and in examples 1 and 4 following paragraph (g)(6) and add in its place in each instance the dollar amount “$390”.

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[FR Doc. 2017-10012 Filed 5-17-17; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6345-03-P