Do as we say, Congress says, then does what it wants

Congress in the US exempts itself from a number of laws that apply to the private sector and the executive branch

When CBS News reported in 2011 that members of Congress weren’t prohibited from insider trading, Congress moved swiftly. President Obama signed a law banning it within six months of the broadcast.


But Congress is still exempt from portions of a number of federal laws, including provisions that protect workers in the private sector but don’t apply to the legislative branch’s approximately 30,000 employees.

Here’s our rundown of measures Congress exempts itself from:

  • Whistleblower Protections: Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989, which protects workers in the executive branch from retaliation for reporting waste, mismanagement or lawbreaking. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act gives similar protections to private-sectors workers. But legislative-branch workers — a category that includes congressional staffers as well as employees of the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol and other offices —don’t get the same protections.


  • Subpoenas for Health and Safety Probes:  The Occupational Health and Safety Act empowers the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate health and safety violations in private-sector workplaces. If an employer doesn’t cooperate, the agency can subpoena the records it needs. The Office of Compliance, the independent agency that investigates such violations in the legislative branch, doesn’t have the power to issue those subpoenas.


  • Keeping Workplace Records: A number of workplace-rights laws — the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others — require employers to retain personnel records for a certain period of time. But as a recent report on the congressional workplace notes, “Congress has exempted itself from all of these requirements.” Congress is also exempt from keeping records of injuries and illness the way private-sector employers are.


  • Prosecution for Retaliating Against Employees: If a private-sector employer retaliates against a worker for reporting health or safety hazards, the Department of Labor can investigate and, if necessary, sue the employer. Congress’ Office of Compliance doesn’t have that power — legislative-branch employees must file suit personally and pay their own legal fees.
  • Posting Notices of Workers’ Rights: Workplace-rights laws require employers to post notices of those rights, which often appear in office lunchrooms. Congress is exempt from this requirement, though this has little real-world impact. The Office of Compliance sends legislative employees the same information each year, formatted “in a manner suitable for posting.”
  • Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation Training: The No Fear Act requires agencies in the executive branch to provide such training to employees, but the legislative branch is exempt.
  • The Freedom of Information Act: The public can request information from federal agencies, but Congress, the federal courts and some parts of the Executive Office of the President are exempt.

In addition to sparing itself from complying with measures it has made mandatory for others, Congress is violating of some of the laws that do apply to it, according to a recent report from the Office of Compliance. (The pint-sized agency, created by Congress in 1995, is responsible for enforcing a number of workplace-rights laws in the legislative branch.) The sidewalks surrounding the three House office buildings, the report noted, don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Neither do the restrooms in the House and Senate office buildings and the Library of Congress’ James Madison Building.


The Office of Compliance cites certain congressional exemptions as particularly problematic. The agency’s inability to subpoena information regarding some legislative workers’ complaints about health and safety often means the office must negotiate with congressional offices to gather the facts it needs.  

“It can tie our hands sometimes,” said Barbara J Sapin, the office’s executive director.

The Office of Compliance has urged Congress to apply the laws listed above to itself — except the Freedom of Information Act — with little result. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate who represents the District of Columbia, introduced a bill in 2011 to do this, but it died in committee.


The number of complaints of discrimination and harassment filed by legislative-branch workers with the Office of Compliance has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 102 in the 2009 fiscal year to 196 in the 2011 fiscal year. Workers’ complaints about retaliation or intimidation have risen even more sharply, from 36 in fiscal year 2009 to 108 in fiscal year 2011.


Even so, Debra Katz, a Washington lawyer who specializes in workplace-rights law, said some Capitol Hill employees might be holding back from filing complaints. House and Senate staffers, she said, are often reluctant to speak up about harassment or discrimination for fear of jeopardizing their careers.

“People are very loath to burn bridges by filing a complaint or going to the Office of Compliance,” she said. “They don’t want to go forward with bringing a claim, even when it’s covered under the law.”




Thangamayil operating profit suffers despite healthy sales in Q3

Despite good festive sales, Thangamayil Jewellery’s operating profit took a hit due to change in accounting policy

Madurai-based Thangamayil Jewellery Ltd, recommended by Moneylife magazine on 23 August 2012 ( has reported a 41% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in net sales to Rs436.96 crore for the quarter ended 31 December 2012. While this is an impressive number, it disappointed on the operations side of the business when its operating profit for the quarter ended 31 December 2012 plummeted 34% y-o-y to Rs22.71 crore when compared to the corresponding period last year. The major culprit was increase in advertising and publicity expenses due to change in accounting treatment, which affected its bottom-line.

According to the quarterly release, the statement reflecting change in accounting policy said, “In line with changes in accounting treatment and in accordance with generally accepted accounting standard on advertisement expenses the company opted to write off deferred revenue expenditure of earlier years in three equal quarterly installments in the current year together with fully charging of current year advertisement and publicity expenses in the profit and loss account of the current year. Consequent to this it has resulted in understatement of profit for the quarter and nine month ended 31 December 2012 by Rs6.14 crore and 13.95 crore net of taxes respectively on a comparable basis”

Moneylife’s database showed that Thangamayil’s sales lived up to its three-quarter y-o-y growth trend of 43%. Sales were buoyed by the festive season last year which is promising. However, despite the accounting change, its operating profit suffered in the previous quarter as well. Therefore, it has reported negative operating profit of 30% and 34% in the September 2012 and December 2012 quarters respectively. This is a worrying trend. Investors would need to keep an eye on operating profit in the current quarter to see if the trend persists. Leaving this aside, it has reported high return on networth of 33% while its valuation remains somewhat depressed with its market capitalisation just over four times its operating profit.

Also, the rise in price of gold to possibly unrealistic levels might deter buyers from buying gold jewelry. With the festive season past us, questions linger whether the price of gold will come down given that it is artificially being propped up by various central bankers world over. However, as far as overall sales are concerned it remains robust. Eyes will be on how its operating profit fares this quarter.

We had recommended this stock at Rs200.55, and now up nearly 50% and currently Rs299 on the National Stock Exchange.

Read past news on Thangamayil over here.


Sensex, Nifty remains in a range: Thursday closing report

Nifty yet to show its hand though the trend is mildly down

Most of the Asian indices had negative opening while the others opened flat after the US reported first quarter of negative GDP growth (-0.1% quarter-on-quarter at an annualized rate). The indices back home opened in the negative. The Sensex opened at 19,987 while the Nifty opened at 6,046. Both the indices immediately hit their respective highs of the day and started a small downward trend. Yesterday, we mentioned that indices await fresh cues and only a sharp fall below 6,020 will push the Nifty towards 5,950 while a close above 6,100 will mean a continuation of the creeping bull market. The NSE saw an advance decline ratio of 704:777 and a volume of 99.99 crore shares today.


The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday maintained its monthly $85 billion bond-buying stimulus plan, saying economic growth had stalled but indicating the pullback was likely temporary. The Fed repeated that it would keep overnight rates near zero until the unemployment rate hits 6.5%, as long as inflation does not threaten to exceed 2.5%.


The Sensex hit a high of 20,009 while the Nifty manage to hit 6,058. Market was unable to move higher except for a minor pull up when ICICI Bank came up with a forecast beating result. The Indian Government today revised the economic growth for fiscal 2011-12 to 6.2% from the earlier estimate of 6.5%.


With the expiry of the F&O contracts, the indices faced selling pressures and in the last hour of the trading session the Sensex hit a 10 day low (including today) of 19,866 while the Nifty hit a four day low (including today) of 6,025. Soon after, the indices closed marginally above its respective day’s low. The Sensex closed at 19,895 (fell 110 points, 0.55%) while the Nifty closed at 6,035 (fell 21 points, 0.35%).


The Asian indices had a mixed performance. While the major gainer were Nikkei 225 and Taiwan Weighted, where both rose 0.22%, the Hang Seng fell the most, 0.39%. Both the European markets and US Futures were trading in the red.


Tomorrow Markit Economics will unveil HSBC India Manufacturing PMI, which gauges the business activity of India's factories, for January 2013.


The BSE Mid-cap index rose 0.54% while the BSE Small-cap index fell 0.11%.


The top sectoral gainers were BSE Realty (up 1.38%); BSE PSU (up 1.02%); BSE Consumer Durables and BSE FMCG (up 0.61% each) and BSE Power (up 0.46%).  The main losers were BSE Bankex and BSE Oil & Gas (fell 0.42% each); BSE IT (fell 0.26%); BSE TECk (fell 0.23%) and BSE Capital Goods (fell 0.16%).


Eleven of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The chief gainers were BHEL (up 2.36%); Sun Pharma (up 1.33%); Hero MotoCorp (up 1.31%); ITC (up 1.25%) and GAIL (up 1.03%). The key losers were Tata Power (fell 2.18%); ICICI Bank (fell 1.93%); HDFC Bank (fell 1.87%); Bharti Airtel (fell 1.52%) and Reliance Industries (fell 1.39%).


The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—Suzlon Energy (up 15.57%) and Essar Oil (up 13.30%).


The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—Colgate Palmolive (fell 2.43%) and National Aluminium (fell 2.37%).


The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—Murli Industries (up 15.10%) and Panacea Biotec (up 13.28%).


The top two B Group losers on the BSE were— Midfield Industries (fell 14.09%) and Riba Textiles (fell 12.54%).


Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 25 stocks settled in the positive. The major gainers were Punjab National Bank (up 10.24%); Bank of Baroda (up 4.11%); BHEL (up 3.16%); DLF (up 2.60%) and GAIL (up 1.75%). The chief losers were Tata Power (fell 2.37%); HDFC Bank (fell 2.08%); Bharti Airtel (fell 2.06%); ICICI Bank (fell 1.93%) and Hindustan Unilever (fell 1.52%).


DLF has entered into definitive Business Transfer Agreement with BLP Vayu (Project 1) Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of Bharat Light & Power Pvt. Ltd. for transferring of its undertaking comprising of 150 MW capacity wind turbines situated at Kutch, Gujarat on ‘as is where is basis’ by way of slump-sale for a lump sum consideration of Rs282.30 crore. The transaction is in line with the DLF's objective of divesting its non core assets. DLF rose 1.87% to close at Rs277.80 on the BSE.


The Cabinet today approved the Rs200-crore revival package for ailing public sector unit, Scooters India. After the government shelved the plan to sell out its entire stake in SIL, the Department of Heavy Industry had proposed a revival package of more than Rs200 crore for revival of the company. Besides, the department had consulted the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises, which examined the case, and later suggested a revival package for the sick unit. Scooters India rose 4.88% to close at Rs36.55 on the BSE.


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