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Judge blocks enforcement of insider trading law on federal employees

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McLEAN, Va. (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked enforcement of a new insider trading law that would require nearly 30,000 federal workers to disclose details about their financial transactions on the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. in Greenbelt, Md., issued a temporary preliminary injunction that bars the law, called the STOCK Act, from being enforced on executive-branch employees until at least November. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in April.

Williams wrote that the law appears to illegally infringe on federal workers' right to privacy.

The injunction does not affect enforcement of the law against members of Congress and their staffs. The law was originally written to apply only to Congress but was amended to extend to senior members of the executive branch, including the military.

Without the injunction, the law would have taken effect at the end of the month. The injunction gives Congress time to possibly change the law. Discussions are under way to exempt the executive branch, said Bill Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association, one of the organizations that sued to block the law.

Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the ACLU's Washington, D.C., chapter, which helped file the lawsuit, said the ruling is encouraging because the judge indicates that he granted the injunction in part because he believes the plaintiffs are ultimately likely to prevail.

Government lawyers had argued against issuing the injunction.

The executive branch employees who would be covered under the law already have to file financial disclosures with the Office of Government Ethics. As a practical matter, though, those forms are rarely inspected by the public. Under the new law, though, the information would be easily available to anyone on the Internet. The idea is that disclosing such information would expose any transactions in which an individual benefits from inside knowledge on congressional actions that affect the marketplace.

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