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Ethics Panel Requires Added Disclosure of Funds, Accounts

The House Ethics Committee on Wednesday said members and senior staffers must disclose the underlying assets in certain investment funds and accounts, regardless of whether the person has any role in selecting the investments.

The added details will be reflected on annual personal financial disclosures and periodic transaction reports. Financial disclosures previously identified investments such as hedge funds and privately managed accounts only by name and overall value.

“Members are not going to be happy. Accountants are going to be overjoyed — they’ll be very busy.” said Arent Fox attorney Brett Kappel. He said the added disclosure covers non-self-directed funds for which, until now, “you just had to report that you owned the fund and not what was in it or any transactions that took place,”

The new guidance does not apply to qualified blind trusts.

Going forward, only “widely held investment” accounts such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and defined-benefit pensions can be reported without detailing the underlying assets. These investments must be funds with 100 or more investors over which the filer or their family members do not exercise control. They must be publicly traded or widely diversified, which the committee defines as having no more than 5 percent of its value in any one issuer other than the federal government and no more than 20 percent of its value in any particular economic sector or geographic region.

The memorandum issued by the committee noted that the underlying assets of 401(k), IRA and other brokerage accounts must be reported. If the underlying asset is a widely held investment fund that meets the specified criteria, the assets within that fund will not be required.

“It is not sufficient to disclose the aggregate value of the portfolio or account,” Ethics Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., said.

Kappel said the new guidelines could prove problematic for the managers of private hedge funds, which were previously reported by name and value only, without the underlying assets.

“There are all sorts of hedge funds and privately managed funds, many of which are proprietary. Fund managers do not like to disclose what they’re investing in. Now they’re going to have to give it to the member, and then the member is going to have to publish it,” Kappel said.

The memorandum also reiterated looming “periodic transaction reporting” requirements and specific dates in January and February on which members and staffers can get guidance on the reporting requirements in the STOCK Act.

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