Transparency of our processes and public participation in the development of actuarial standards lie at the heart of the Academy’s mission. So when a petition campaign mischaracterizes a revision to the Academy’s policies governing guest attendance at certain meetings, it’s important to set the record straight.
While only a small fraction of Academy members have signed the petition, we believe the values at stake are so important that we want to address them thoroughly and prominently.
Most fundamentally, it is important for Academy members to know that since the policy revision guests have continued to observe at both Actuarial Standards Board (ASB) and ASB pension committee meetings and will undoubtedly continue to do so. The Academy’s commitment to transparency remains unchanged.
Nevertheless, we understand that some have signed the petition favoring a bylaw change for the best of motivations: they share the Academy’s values of disclosure, participation, and accountability. What we hope they, and others, will come to understand is that the Academy’s current policy was developed solely to further those values by carefully balancing the need for public participation with the need for expertise, disinterestedness, and candor. We refer to that balance as “orderly transparency.”
Nothing is more important to our profession or the Academy than the public’s confidence in the robustness of the professionalism of actuaries who work in all fields of practice, including pension systems of all kinds. Maintaining that confidence requires a process that provides multiple opportunities for input and participation. At the same time, confidence in the quality and the objectivity of actuarial standards—the output of that process—depends on the ability of the committee members to deliberate with candor, without disruption, and free of actual, perceived, or potential conflicts of interest.
Balancing these needs—always with the ultimate goal of public confidence—is what drove the adoption of our current meetings policy, a balance that the petition currently circulating would upend. Experience has demonstrated that knowledgeable guests contribute greatly to the development of actuarial standards. But it has also demonstrated that disruptions and conflicts of interest can interfere with that process.
We welcome guests at our meetings, in some cases as observers and in others as participants. To protect the essential ability to have confidential and candid deliberations, chairpersons have reasonable discretion in their consideration of potential guests. For example, they may consider whether the guest has a conflict of interest or may be seeking inside information, whether the guest has a prior history of disruption or other misconduct (such as publishing notes from the meeting online), or, in what we expect will be rare cases, are suing or have threatened to sue the Academy.
But those situations are likely to be the exception, not the rule. Our goal is inclusion, not exclusion, as continued guest attendance demonstrates. It is also important to remember that the exposure process allows many more opportunities for public participation beyond attendance at meetings.
So we urge you not to support either the petition or the bylaw amendment it advocates. Our meetings policy, together with the robust and longstanding standards-setting process that includes meaningful disclosure and public participation, provides the orderly transparency essential to achieving our most important mission: public confidence in our profession, and in the professionalism of actuaries who work in the pension and insurance systems that depend on us.
If you signed the petition because you mistakenly believed that attendance at ASB meetings was totally forbidden or wish to withdraw your signature for any other reason, you may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Actuarial Update, August 2018)