Update on Petition to Change Rules Governing Participation of Guests at Academy Committee Meetings

Sept. 21, 2018

As discussed in the August Actuarial Update, some Academy members have been asked by Ms. Karen Smith to sign a petition in support of a membership vote on changing the Academy’s rules governing the participation of guests in meetings of the Actuarial Standards Board and of the Academy’s various committees.

The Academy Board found that the current policy strikes the right balance between openness and the need for candid and robust discussion, along with the need to maintain basic decorum and prevent conflicts of interest. Indeed, since the adoption of the current policy, guests have continued to attend and participate in committee meetings. Ms. Smith presented her petition on September 13. The Academy has reviewed it and determined the petition as it currently stands is insufficient to trigger a membership vote for three principal reasons:

  • Not Enough Signatures: Article XV of the Academy’s Bylaws requires a written request of not less than 3 percent of the Academy’s membership. As of September 13 (the date the petition was submitted), 3 percent of the membership was 602 members. But of the 648 names submitted, 92 of the email addresses do not appear in the Academy’s membership database. One other individual is clearly not an Academy member and yet another is deceased. Four others withdrew their signatures after familiarizing themselves with the facts. That leaves, at most, 550 potentially valid proponents, well short of the number needed.
  • Names Not Linked to the Proposal: Those of you who are familiar with hard-copy petitions know that the subject of the petition appears prominently adjacent to the signatures. But in this case, for many of the names listed, the petition asserts support for a vote without any evidence that the individual, in fact, supports the proposal. It is impossible to accept, simply on faith, that these individuals have expressed their support.
  • Lack of Clarity in the Proposal Itself: The Academy has seen various iterations of the proposal to which the petition relates, but there is nothing linking the submitted signatures to specific versions of the proposal. It would have been helpful if Ms. Smith had incorporated the exact language of her proposal with every solicitation she made for support. So the Academy cannot determine, exactly, what is in fact being requested and whether all the persons supporting the petition actually support the same thing.

These shortcomings have been communicated to Ms. Smith with a note that she is free to attempt to correct them and resubmit her proposal. The Academy hopes she does not. And, if any members are asked to sign the petition, please familiarize yourself with the facts before you make a decision. There is clear evidence that the revised guest policy is working well; observers are welcome and are attending meetings. Continued agitation on this subject is a distraction from other important work and is a needless waste of energy and resources.

The Academy will continue to protect and preserve the open and transparent standard-setting process and the quality and integrity of the standards it produces. If you have any questions, please email knowthefacts@actuary.org.

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