At the Academy Board of Directors meeting on January 30, 2018 in Washington DC, the first order of business was brief introductions of the board members.  Next, the board voted to approve the consent and discussion agendas.  Then, only about 10 minutes into the meeting at roughly 1:10pm, Bob Beuerlein, the immediate past president of the Academy, moved that the board meeting into executive session so that any visitors had to leave.  Then, at around 3:15pm, Mary Downs, the Academy’s executive director, came out and announced that the Board had adopted a new meeting policy and that the one Academy member waiting in the hallway to return to the previously open meeting was not welcome to return.  The new meeting policy was not available at that time, but it would be available by close of the next business day (after the board meeting ended).

Yes, that is correct.  The board voted to change the policy effectively immediately, behind closed doors with an Academy member sitting in the hallway waiting to observe the meeting.  This follows the Academy deciding that all Committee on Qualifications (‘CoQ’) meetings would be closed and closing the annual Actuarial Standard Board (‘ASB’) planning meeting even though “all ASB meetings are open.”

Here is the new policy.  Here is the old policy.  The difference is quite stark.

The systematic closing of meeting seems to be part of a concerted effort to gain tighter conrol over these meetings and communications about these meetings.  Perhaps this is in response to the changing relationships between the actuarial organizations.  It is not clear whether the tighter meeting policy is overall good or bad policy, but it is clearly unacceptable that CoQ meetings have been closed and that being admitted to ASB meetings is now subject to the approval of the ASB chair.  The CoQ and the ASB develop qualification standards and actuarial standards of practice for the ENTIRE actuarial profession.  They perform a near regulatory function and as such their meetings need to be open in the same way that regulators’ meetings are open under state sunshine laws.  If they are not open, why would an actuary prefer industry self-regulation to governmental regulation?  Why would the public have confidence?

The Academy asserts closing meetings will allow for more robust and frank discussion.  Why does having observers prevent frank and robust discussion?  Given the important charge of the ASB and CoQ, the members must be prepared to discuss sensitive matters even when people listening may disagree. Instead of sunlight being effective to prevent possible distortions of the process, the Academy is arguing that darkness and insularity provide the best result.

There is every reason to believe the Academy board of directors had the best of intentions when they made this decision.  The board might be receiving misguided advice

Let’s remind the board of the Academy’s roots.  The 2018 Sunshine Amendment to the Academy bylaws will protect the openness of the standard and qualification setting processes for years to come.  Click here to sign the petition.