Procedures Upon Receipt of Complaints Regarding Conduct of AEA Members
Adopted March 9, 2020, and amended January 2, 2021, and November 16, 2023
Purpose: To articulate the procedures ("Procedures") to be used by the AEA for the prompt and effective review and/or investigation of Complaints against AEA Members for violations of the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct (Collectively the "Policy" or "Policies").
These Procedures apply to all Complaints regarding the conduct of any AEA member ("AEA Member"), including a member of the AEA Board of Trustees ("Board") or an officer of the AEA. (Note, the AEA Bylaws define the Board of Trustees as the voting members of the Executive Committee. Officers (i.e., non-elected members of the Executive Committee) include the editors of the AEA journals, the Secretary-Treasurer, and the General Counsel.)
These Procedures do NOT apply to complaints brought by applicants for employment with AEA or by employees or contractors of AEA and do NOT apply to complaints against employees or contractors of AEA. Those complaints are handled in accordance with AEA's employee handbook and/or employment policies and procedures.
I. AEA Ethics Committee
The AEA Ethics Committee ("Committee" or "Ethics Committee") will be a regular committee of the AEA, comprised of the AEA President ("President") and two other Board Members appointed annually by the President for one-year terms coextensive with that of the President. The AEA Secretary-Treasurer will serve as an ex officio non-voting member of the Committee. Once appointed, the Committee in place at the time a Complaint is received will continue to be the Committee of record for that case until the matter is finally resolved. There is no limit to the number of times a Board member may serve on the Ethics Committee.
If the Committee receives a Complaint for which a member of the Committee has a personal or professional interest in, connection to, or conflict of interest with the allegations in the Complaint or to any of the parties or witnesses to the events alleged in the Complaint, or was a witness to the events alleged in the Complaint, that member of the Committee shall recuse himself or herself from any involvement with the review and/or investigation of the Complaint. If one or more members of the Committee is thereby unable to participate in the review and/or investigation of a Complaint, the President shall appoint a replacement member or members from among the other Board Members. If the President is similarly unable to participate in the Committee's review and/or investigation of a Complaint, the immediate past AEA President shall assume the responsibilities of the President, including the appointing of any additional Board members to serve as replacement members of the Committee for that Complaint. Any replacement Board Members appointed to the Committee because of the inability of one or more of the regular members of the Ethics Committee to participate in the review and/or investigation of a Complaint shall serve on the Committee for that Complaint only.
- Any AEA Member may file a Complaint against another AEA Member or Members, including AEA Board Members or Officers, for alleged violations of the AEA Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation or the AEA Code of Professional Conduct by filing a written complaint containing information essential for a review and/or investigation by the Ethics Committee, including the date and location of the alleged violation, all parties involved, a summary of relevant facts, and any relevant documentation ("Complaint").
- All Complaints shall be filed with the AEA President or Secretary-Treasurer, who upon receipt of a Complaint, shall expeditiously transmit copies of the Complaint to the members of the Ethics Committee.
- Complaints should be filed reasonably promptly after the event alleged in the Complaint. The Committee generally will not investigate conduct occurring more than seven years prior to the date of the Complaint unless it determines that the underlying conduct is serious and the reasons for the delay in filing are reasonable.
- Upon receipt of a Complaint, non-recused and any replacement members of the Committee will convene to review the allegations in the Complaint and determine what next steps to take in reviewing and/or investigating the matter. The Committee shall consider the Complaint in the context of the nature of the Complaint, the underlying conduct, how recently it is alleged to have occurred, its connection to the AEA, and such other factors as the Committee deems appropriate. If the Ethics Committee determines that no Investigation is warranted, and the Board approves that recommendation, the Complainant will be promptly informed of the Board’s decision. If the Committee determines that an Investigation is warranted and the Board approves that recommendation, the parties will be provided the process detailed in Section III.
- If the matter has been reviewed and/or investigated by some other entity, the Committee will determine what steps, if any, are available and appropriate to gather necessary information from that other entity. The AEA is not required to accept that other entity's determination and can conduct its own further review or investigation.
- If the matter alleged in the Complaint has been reported to some other entity and that other entity and has not yet made any determination, the Committee will generally await such determination before deciding whether to conduct its own review or investigation. The Committee is not required to defer action, however, and the AEA can conduct its own further review or investigation and make its own findings and recommendations. If the matter alleged in the Complaint involves an AEA Officer or Board member or conduct at an AEA-sponsored activity, the AEA will generally conduct its own review and/or investigation.
- If the Ethics Committee, with approval from the Board, investigates a Complaint, it may conduct the investigation itself or retain the services of a reputable outside agency or firm ("its designee") to conduct the investigation. If an investigation is undertaken, the Ethics Committee will take a statement from the Complainant and any party alleged to have breached the Policies ("Respondent"); request and review any relevant documentation from all parties, including emails, text messages, and social media postings; and interview all witnesses identified by the parties or that the Committee itself identifies who may have relevant information. In addition, in its discretion, the Committee may request and rely on any previous fact-finding or statements from an employer, independent organization or agency, or other institution.
- All AEA Members are expected, consistent with the AEA Code of Professional Conduct, to cooperate with the Ethics Committee in any review and/or investigation it conducts. The Committee may consider any lack of cooperation as a factor in making its findings and/or recommending appropriate sanctions.
III. Ethics Committee Process for Complaint Participants in Investigations
As much as reasonably achievable under the circumstances, the Ethics Committee will provide both Complainants and Respondents with the following process in the course of any Ethics Committee Investigation of a Complaint:
- Timely notice of the Complaint and its basis;
- Advance notice of any meeting a Member is requested to attend;
- An opportunity to provide support for the Complaint or a response to the Complaint, including an opportunity to submit a written statement and identify witnesses or other sources of information relevant to the allegations in the Complaint;
- The right to have a personal supporter of the party's choice, who may or may not be an attorney, who may assist and advise a party throughout the Committee's investigation, including attending all meetings the party is asked to attend; however, parties will be expected to speak for themselves unless unable to do so by reason of a disability;
- Have the Complaint investigated in an impartial, timely, and reasonably thorough manner, but without the right of the parties to cross examine other parties or witnesses;
- Prompt notice of the Ethics Committee's Report to the Board following the Committee's Investigation, including any findings and recommended sanctions;
- An opportunity to submit written objections to the Board in response to the Ethics Committee's Report following an Investigation;
- Fair and proportionate sanctions, as determined in the discretion of the Board; and
- Consistent with confidentiality considerations, notice of any final action taken by the Board on the Complaint following an Investigation.
IV. Ethics Committee's Report, Sanctions, and Board Review
- If the Committee investigates a Complaint, it shall submit a Report to the Board with its findings and any recommendation for what, if any, sanction or action is appropriate to address the allegations in the Complaint, as well as any background or other information that the Committee determines might be important for the Board to have in considering its Report and any recommended sanctions.
- Sanctions may include, depending on the level of severity of the conduct:
- Private or public reprimand.
- Temporary suspension of membership privileges, pending investigation.
- Removal of some or all membership privileges for a stated period of time.
- Revocation of membership for a stated period of time, after which the Member may apply for reinstatement.
- Revocation of the right to serve as journal referee, editor, committee member, and/or Board member.
- Other sanctions as determined to be appropriate in the Board's discretion.
- Private or public reprimand.
- Upon finding that a Respondent violated the Policy, the level of sanction recommended by the Committee or imposed by the Board will be guided by:
- The level of severity of the violation;
- The context of the conduct and the level of connection to the core activities of the AEA;
- Whether the conduct alleged occurred before the adoption of the Policies;
- Whether the conduct caused serious professional and/or personal harm to a Complainant;
- Whether the conduct had the effect of damaging the reputation of the AEA and/or the reputation of the economics profession;
- The level of cooperation of the person subject to potential sanction; and
- Such other factors as the Ethics Committee or the Board deems appropriate and relevant.
- The level of severity of the violation;
- The Board will consider the Report of the Ethics Committee and any information submitted by the parties in response to the Committee's Report at its next scheduled Board meeting following receipt of the Committee's Report. If the Board deems it appropriate, it can schedule a special meeting for consideration of the Report.
- The Board, in its discretion, can accept the Committee's Report and approve its recommendation for sanctions. The acceptance and approval of the Report requires the affirmative vote of a two-thirds majority of the Board at the meeting. The Board also may, in its discretion, determine that the Committee's review and/or investigation or recommended sanctions were not reasonable or appropriate and adopt a different sanction or select a different ad hoc committee to conduct additional review and investigation.
- Any sanctions approved by the Board require the affirmative vote of a two-thirds majority of the Board at the meeting.
- All decisions of the Board are final.
V. Role of the AEA Ombuds
- The AEA has engaged the services of MWI to serve as an outsourced ombuds resource for the AEA and its Members. The AEA Ombuds are members of the International Ombuds Association ("IOA") and adhere to the IOA Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
- The AEA Ombuds are available to assist all AEA Members, including all Complainants, Respondents, Board and Ethics Committee Members, and officers, with AEA related issues, including issues involving the Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation and the AEA Code of Professional Conduct. Because the AEA Ombuds is an independent, impartial, informal, and confidential resource, AEA Members can have confidential communications with the AEA Ombuds about the Policies and any potential violations and receive assistance in developing and assessing their options for surfacing and/or reporting complaints about potential misconduct. The AEA Ombuds, however, are not authorized to receive any notice of Claims or Complaints against AEA Members or the AEA. The AEA Ombuds are not authorized to conduct investigations, make findings of fact or recommend sanctions for Policy violations, or participate in any legal, disciplinary, or other proceedings, including the investigation of Complaints under these Procedures.
- All AEA employees, officers and Board Members involved in considering and processing a Complaint shall fully keep the entire matter, including any deliberations, as confidential as possible. The facts of the matter, relevant documentation, and the identities of the parties may be shared only to the extent necessary to consider the matter, arrange for an investigation, process the Complaint and response, make a recommendation to the Board, and for decision-making by the Board. Therefore, such information shall be shared only with independent investigators, legal counsel, the complainants, or members of the Ethics Committee as necessary or as otherwise required by law.
- While the Complaint is pending, parties and witnesses are encouraged to keep the entire matter of the Complaint confidential in order to protect the integrity of the review and/or investigation of the Complaint. Committee reports and communications are confidential and are the property of the AEA and shall not be disseminated or shared by the parties except with parties’ counsel or designated support person without written consent of the Secretary-Treasurer of the AEA. Dissemination of the Committee’s reports and communications without written consent are grounds for sanctions.
- Parties and witnesses are advised that despite the confidentiality protections herein, anonymity of parties and witnesses within a review and/or investigation of a Complaint cannot be guaranteed.
- All records regarding the Complaint shall be stored by the AEA Secretary-Treasurer in a secure format and location and shall be disclosed only to those persons and to the extent necessary to carry out the core business of the AEA.
- Initiation of legal action against the AEA, its Board Members, officers, or employees shall constitute a waiver of confidentiality by the person initiating such action.
- The confidentiality of communications with AEA Ombuds cannot be waived by others and is governed by the AEA Ombuds Charter and the IOA Standards of Practice.