As we have worked on the Sunshine Amendment, a few individuals have contacted me and said, “I have worked with the people on the ASB and they are thoughtful, professional people. They must have a reason for doing this.” The people that I have dealt with on the ASB are indeed thoughtful and professional. And, they all have impeccable resumes and are extremely qualified. The people on the ASB are not the issue. So, what are the issues?
First, the ASB did not close their meetings – the Academy Board of Directors did. The closing of the ASB meetings was part of a bigger effort at the Academy Board level to close meetings. I do not even know if the ASB agrees with the changes. My understanding is that if asked about it, ASB members refer the question to the Academy’s general counsel. But, even if the ASB agrees with the changes, it would have been better if the changes had been made by the ASB, not the Academy Board. I still would not like the changes, but part of the concern is that the ASB needs to be insulated from Academy Board interference.
Second, when meetings are closed, insularity and group-think increase. A quick real-life example: I was speaking with a former member of the ASB and he said that he did not understand the fuss in the ASOP 1 comment letters. ASOP 1 added definitions of terms such as “must” and “should”. He said, “We always had a list and we understood what those terms meant.” He totally missed that while the ASB may have understood what those terms meant because they had a cheat sheet, the average reader of the ASOP did not. The average reader applied the common sense meaning to those terms because they did not know about the ASB cheat sheet. Open meetings help actuaries and the public better understand what the ASB is thinking, and thus empower the public and actuaries to provide the ASB better feedback and input.
Third, the reasons that the Academy has given for closing the ASB meetings do not make sense. Every problem the Academy says that they are trying to solve were addressed in the old ASB meeting policy. The ASB always had the authority to go into Executive Session and exclude visitors as necessary to discuss confidential information and sensitive issues. And, the ASB always had the authority to eject disruptive individuals. If the ASB was choosing not to use the available tools under the old policy that was not a policy problem – it was a leadership problem.
The Sunshine Amendment is not about a problem with any ASB member. The Sunshine Amendment restores transparency to ASB meetings.