Ethics Inquiry Procedure Intact

As a "baby-boomer" I always assumed that my generation would learn from the mistakes of older generations. Yet, based on the recent questionable ethics of a small group of business people from Wall Street to Main Street in my age bracket, it appears that, in some cases, if anything was taught about ethics, little was learned.

That said, I think that by far most business people try to act in a fair and ethical manner. It is the minority that taints the majority.

In response to the feeling that business ethics are eroding, there has been a lot of discussion on ethics within AAPG. Recent articles in the EXPLORER and the DPA Correlator have highlighted ethics discussions. John Gibson, president and CEO of Haliburton, has provided very interesting talks on ethics as a Special AAPG Distinguished Lecturer (November EXPLORER).

I have reviewed many of the comments regarding ethics and past concerns by AAPG members. As some changes have been made over the past few years, I thought I should bring you up to date on some of the actions that have been done in regard to ethics at AAPG:

Ethics Committee

AAPG has established a responsible, qualified, non-political committee to investigate charges of ethical misconduct by AAPG members and prosecute AAPG members who appear to have violated our Code of Ethics. The Ethics Committee was established pursuant to an AAPG bylaw change on April 16, 2000. It is an independent review board composed of a few of AAPG's respected DPA members: Currently that group is Bob Sellars (chairman), Jim Gibbs, Terry Hollrah, Jim Drahovzal and Bob Lindblom.

Please log in to read the full article

As a "baby-boomer" I always assumed that my generation would learn from the mistakes of older generations. Yet, based on the recent questionable ethics of a small group of business people from Wall Street to Main Street in my age bracket, it appears that, in some cases, if anything was taught about ethics, little was learned.

That said, I think that by far most business people try to act in a fair and ethical manner. It is the minority that taints the majority.

In response to the feeling that business ethics are eroding, there has been a lot of discussion on ethics within AAPG. Recent articles in the EXPLORER and the DPA Correlator have highlighted ethics discussions. John Gibson, president and CEO of Haliburton, has provided very interesting talks on ethics as a Special AAPG Distinguished Lecturer (November EXPLORER).

I have reviewed many of the comments regarding ethics and past concerns by AAPG members. As some changes have been made over the past few years, I thought I should bring you up to date on some of the actions that have been done in regard to ethics at AAPG:

Ethics Committee

AAPG has established a responsible, qualified, non-political committee to investigate charges of ethical misconduct by AAPG members and prosecute AAPG members who appear to have violated our Code of Ethics. The Ethics Committee was established pursuant to an AAPG bylaw change on April 16, 2000. It is an independent review board composed of a few of AAPG's respected DPA members: Currently that group is Bob Sellars (chairman), Jim Gibbs, Terry Hollrah, Jim Drahovzal and Bob Lindblom.

Complaint Procedure

Complaints are made officially to the AAPG executive director. The member is asked to file the complaint in writing. E-mail is acceptable. Once the formal complaint is made, it is sent immediately to the chairman of the Ethics Committee, who then contacts the member and verifies the content of the complaint. The complaint is brought before the Ethics Committee to investigate the charges to decide if they have merit.

If a case has merit, the Ethics Committee prosecutes the case before a select panel made up of five members from the Advisory Committee. If the member is found to have committed a violation of the AAPG Code of Ethics, there are a range of penalties that can be applied —including expulsion.

Liability Insurance

AAPG now has coverage for AAPG's officers and members who are acting on behalf of AAPG. The key words are "acting on behalf." Members who are an officer or a member of a committee on behalf of AAPG are covered by AAPG's insurance. AAPG does not provide liability insurance for members who file complaints against other AAPG members for ethics violations outside of AAPG business.

During the last four years I have received about a dozen complaints. In many cases the charges are of a "he said, she said" nature, and in many cases the member making the charge does not follow through on a formal written charge. Often this is because the member simply wanted to talk to someone about a problem.

Around one-third of the inquiries have been made by non-members who, of course, cannot file ethics charges against an AAPG member. Another one-third of the inquiries are complaints by an AAPG member against a third party, usually a company, e.g. the member did not receive a promised override. AAPG has no jurisdiction over a company or other non-members; only AAPG members are subject to the AAPG grievance procedure.


Why does AAPG receive so few ethics complaints? Is it because there are not that many problems in our profession, or is it because members are reluctant to come forward?

The answer is probably a little of both. Over the last four years I have kept notes on member's responses on ethics. My experience is that reluctance to file an ethics charge is related to one or more of the following issues:

The process.

In this case, the members did not want to go through a lengthy procedural hassle to make an ethics charge. Although AAPG's complaint procedure is rigorous, it is not nearly as painful as a civil suit.

The key part of the prosecc is the investigative phase, where the Ethics Committee determines the validity of the charge.

Liability.

Members always are concerned about a counter-complaint or suit. As mentioned previously, we have insurance for AAPG leaders acting on behalf of AAPG. For member-against-member complaints (not involving AAPG business), the reality is that you cannot insure one member against another member because both would be insured by the same company if a counterclaim was filed in a lawsuit involving an ethics charge. As a result of this type of suit, the insurance company essentially would be suing itself!

Company and peer pressure.

Several members I interviewed felt that their companies would not approve of time spent on such actions. Some members feel that they might be ostracized if they filed an ethics complaint against a fellow geologist.


AAPG's leadership has made sure AAPG has the best coverage for members most at risk. On a routine basis I ask both insurance and legal counsel to re-examine our coverage and to check and see if there is additional coverage for members, or if the legal "ground-rules" have changed.

The fact is that we now have the "tools and the talent" to process legitimate ethics complaints; however, that does not replace good education on ethics, and the development of a culture of expected ethical behavior by AAPG members.

You may also be interested in ...

Popular articles