Reporting on Academy Work

Aug. 11, 2017

Dear Fellow Academy Volunteers:

I want to thank each one of you for your dedication to the Academy’s work on behalf of the profession and the public in the United States. Together we can and do make a valuable difference in the life of our country and our profession. Our ability to make a difference is based on our core values of objectivity, independence, and effectiveness. I do not think my message should be new information for any of you, but it is timely to remind all of us of how the Academy’s mission must guide our interactions among and between us as we work on Academy committees of all kinds.

As our society has become more litigious, our profession—which reflects our society—has become more litigious as well. Because of this, the Academy’s activities are coming under much greater scrutiny than in the past—particularly our standards-setting and disciplinary processes. As anyone who has been involved in litigation knows, this scrutiny goes beyond the work itself to include the way it is communicated. The Academy has well-developed policies and procedures designed to ensure the integrity of all our various groups and processes, including those of the Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) and Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD).

As volunteers, we’re reminded each year of one of the most important of these policies when we sign our conflict of interest (COI) acknowledgement. This is not an arbitrary bit of paperwork; it’s essential to ensure that the Academy is able to serve the public interest. Whenever we serve on an Academy group, the Academy is our principal. This COI policy—along with the Academy’s Open Meetings Policy, Document Retention Policy, and statement of Roles and Responsibilities—has some commonsense implications. When we perform a project for a client or employer, we’re expected to work solely in the best interest of that client or employer. Similarly, when we work for the Academy, even as an unpaid volunteer, we must do that work solely in the best interest of the Academy. We understand the need to keep client drafts and deliberations confidential, and the need to carefully coordinate any public communications. The same is true of the Academy, especially in the case of standards-setting and disciplinary matters, because they have the potential to become the subject of litigation. But it is also true of all committee work and the products that result from it.

Given the importance of getting this right, I would like to remind us all of a few principles related to: (a) committee and task force service and (b) interested parties attending Academy committee and task force meetings.
  1. All committee and task force members are expected to follow the Conflict of Interest policy and to perform their work for Academy committees and task forces solely for the Academy. No committee or task force member is or will be recognized as a liaison to any other U.S.-based actuarial organization, any employer interest, or any other professional or trade group without the authorization of the Academy’s Executive Committee. Any committee or task force member who believes he or she is serving in such a role should notify the committee or task force chairperson or the Academy’s general counsel and director of professionalism consistent with the Conflict of Interest policy;
  2. No committee or task force member should circulate any notes, reports, or observations on committee or task force activities outside the committee or task force without the permission of the relevant officer;
  3. The Academy will not vouch for the accuracy of any notes, reports, or observations on committee or task force activities made by interested parties attending committee or task force meetings. Similarly, the Academy will not indemnify any interested parties circulating notes, reports, or observations on committee or task force activities for any legal or other costs incurred should such materials or the interested party be subpoenaed or otherwise subjected to legal process; and
  4. The Academy reserves the right to remove any committee or task force member not complying with these requirements and to close meetings to any interested party who, in the Academy’s sole judgment, may hinder the committee or task force from performing its duties objectively and independently.
I think that the work you do on behalf of the profession and public we strive to serve is extraordinary. And, as we continue to do that work, keeping always paramount the nature of the Academy’s work and our obligation to act in the best interests of the mission that infuses that work, I look forward to our commonly understood and shared commitment to objectivity, independence, and effectiveness.

Bob Beuerlein