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  #1  
Old 07-29-2014, 08:03 AM
smoothingactuary smoothingactuary is offline
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Default Positioning, strained interpretations and ethics

In my current environment we go to great lengths to "position" facts. We don't lie per se, but we obfuscate to tell the story we want to tell. Some of this seems ok, because, well, the other guys are doing it, but I'm not so sure they're doing it as much. We also go to great lengths to follow the letter of the rules, while avoiding the intent. Again, I'm led to believe everyone does it, so, who cares we're just keeping up with the Jones'. Putting those pieces together though I'm starting to feel that we're on the envelope. I'm not that comfortable with the situation. There's nothing I can point to and say, ah ha, there it is, I should go report this as a violation of the code, but I'm just getting uncomfortable helping with all this.

Does anyone have similar experiences? I'm mid level management at an life insurance company (non mutual).

There's this one policy that's a particular stretch, my predecessor wouldn't implement it, left for other reasons, told me it was a bad plan during the transition, but, I implemented it anyway (per mgmt's wishes). Our auditors are on board with the policy in principle, but in practice it's a stretch, it could be easily seen as a smoothing mechanism. There's an old saying that you can't define pornography, but you know it when you see it. I feel like that's where I am. I can't point to what's unethical, but I don't feel like this is an environment I'm comfortable with.

We also spend so much time positioning facts for others up the chain that it's ingrained in the culture, and people below will position facts to us. So we need to uncover their "positioning" to get at the truth, then layer our own positioning back on top.
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  #2  
Old 07-29-2014, 08:54 AM
actexp actexp is offline
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If you don't have anyone in company or local to discuss issue(s) with, you can call any member of the ABCD (or call counsel's office at Academy and they'll refer you on as appropriate) and ask for guidance on particular situation(s). Can do this on anonymous basis if you want; in any event requests for guidance would be confidential outside ABCD anyway.
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  #3  
Old 07-29-2014, 08:58 AM
platypus platypus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoothingactuary View Post
In my current environment we go to great lengths to "position" facts. We don't lie per se, but we obfuscate to tell the story we want to tell. Some of this seems ok, because, well, the other guys are doing it, but I'm not so sure they're doing it as much. We also go to great lengths to follow the letter of the rules, while avoiding the intent. Again, I'm led to believe everyone does it, so, who cares we're just keeping up with the Jones'. Putting those pieces together though I'm starting to feel that we're on the envelope. I'm not that comfortable with the situation. There's nothing I can point to and say, ah ha, there it is, I should go report this as a violation of the code, but I'm just getting uncomfortable helping with all this.

Does anyone have similar experiences? I'm mid level management at an life insurance company (non mutual).

There's this one policy that's a particular stretch, my predecessor wouldn't implement it, left for other reasons, told me it was a bad plan during the transition, but, I implemented it anyway (per mgmt's wishes). Our auditors are on board with the policy in principle, but in practice it's a stretch, it could be easily seen as a smoothing mechanism. There's an old saying that you can't define pornography, but you know it when you see it. I feel like that's where I am. I can't point to what's unethical, but I don't feel like this is an environment I'm comfortable with.

We also spend so much time positioning facts for others up the chain that it's ingrained in the culture, and people below will position facts to us. So we need to uncover their "positioning" to get at the truth, then layer our own positioning back on top.
As an actuary, you are bound by the Code of Conduct (in the US) - http://www.actuary.org/files/code_of_conduct.8_1.pdf.

Precept 1 says (ANNOTATION 1-4) "An Actuary shall not engage in
any professional conduct involving dishonesty, fraud,
deceit, or misrepresentation or commit any act that
reflects adversely on the actuarial profession."

What you describe might be considered to be deceit or misrepresentation. If you are talking about an actuarial work product of some sort, you may be in violation of the Code. Even if it is not an actuarial work product, you are still bound by the code as a member of the profession. Of course, only the facts and circumstances of the issue itself will determine whether there is a violation.

If you are an FSA and attended the Fellowship Admission Course, think about some of the behaviors that were illustrated in the Billion Dollar Bubble movie. There was fraud committed on the public, but the culture of the company was such that peopl, including the actuary, told management what they wanted to hear.

The Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (http://www.abcdboard.org/) provides counseling for actuaries who are not sure about how the Code applies to their work. I would encourage you to contact them for assistance in your dilemma.
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  #4  
Old 07-29-2014, 12:04 PM
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campbell campbell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by actexp View Post
If you don't have anyone in company or local to discuss issue(s) with, you can call any member of the ABCD (or call counsel's office at Academy and they'll refer you on as appropriate) and ask for guidance on particular situation(s). Can do this on anonymous basis if you want; in any event requests for guidance would be confidential outside ABCD anyway.


How to request guidance:
http://www.abcdboard.org/guidance/

I would do that now.
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  #5  
Old 07-29-2014, 01:54 PM
Enough Exams Already Enough Exams Already is offline
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Originally Posted by smoothingactuary View Post
In my current environment we go to great lengths to "position" facts. We don't lie per se, but we obfuscate to tell the story we want to tell. Some of this seems ok, because, well, the other guys are doing it, but I'm not so sure they're doing it as much. We also go to great lengths to follow the letter of the rules, while avoiding the intent. Again, I'm led to believe everyone does it, so, who cares we're just keeping up with the Jones'. Putting those pieces together though I'm starting to feel that we're on the envelope. I'm not that comfortable with the situation. There's nothing I can point to and say, ah ha, there it is, I should go report this as a violation of the code, but I'm just getting uncomfortable helping with all this.

Does anyone have similar experiences? I'm mid level management at an life insurance company (non mutual).

There's this one policy that's a particular stretch, my predecessor wouldn't implement it, left for other reasons, told me it was a bad plan during the transition, but, I implemented it anyway (per mgmt's wishes). Our auditors are on board with the policy in principle, but in practice it's a stretch, it could be easily seen as a smoothing mechanism. There's an old saying that you can't define pornography, but you know it when you see it. I feel like that's where I am. I can't point to what's unethical, but I don't feel like this is an environment I'm comfortable with.

We also spend so much time positioning facts for others up the chain that it's ingrained in the culture, and people below will position facts to us. So we need to uncover their "positioning" to get at the truth, then layer our own positioning back on top.
The line between "positioning" and outright lying sounds very thin, gray and fuzzy. If you have to ask strangers about it, you probably already know which side of that thin, gray, fuzzy line you're on. The "keeping up with the Joneses" argument sounds more like a way of managing of cognitive dissonance than a real justification.

If you're spending that much time and effort "positioning facts", it begs the question why you have to. Are you really serving your organization's needs by doing so? Or is this a case of the Emperor's new clothes?

For when you have time and are through this situation, there's a great book called "Moral Mazes" by Robert Jackall that explains how and why this happens. Great insights on how bureaucracies shape moral behavior and consciousness.
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  #6  
Old 07-29-2014, 02:18 PM
smoothingactuary smoothingactuary is offline
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Thanks for the replies. Its more death by a thousand papercuts, so I don't really feel any specific things are strong enough concerns to bring to the ABCD. No one thing crosses a red line, its just it feels like a lot of things are moved close to it.
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  #7  
Old 07-29-2014, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by smoothingactuary View Post
Thanks for the replies. Its more death by a thousand papercuts, so I don't really feel any specific things are strong enough concerns to bring to the ABCD. No one thing crosses a red line, its just it feels like a lot of things are moved close to it.
I recommend you use the services of our site sponsor (and any other appropriate resources) to find a new employer. When you get interviews, what you will be looking for is integrity. Keep searching until you find it. That's my free advice.
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Old 07-29-2014, 03:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smoothingactuary View Post
Thanks for the replies. Its more death by a thousand papercuts, so I don't really feel any specific things are strong enough concerns to bring to the ABCD. No one thing crosses a red line, its just it feels like a lot of things are moved close to it.
It would still be worthwhile talking to someone from the ABCD.
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  #9  
Old 07-30-2014, 05:20 PM
zeus1233 zeus1233 is offline
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It would still be worthwhile talking to someone from the ABCD.
+1, really, it can't hurt

death by 1,000 cuts can still be wrong (or acceptable) in the aggregate.

I think, if you're really concerned, getting a second opinion can be quite valuable. You may even learn that what your employer is doing is actually ok.
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  #10  
Old 08-01-2014, 10:53 AM
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I have availed myself of the ABCD when I had a question (one larger issue as opposed to many smaller issues) at a prior employer. Do it, now. You will be glad you did.

(The ABCD did not provide any sponsorship for this post.)
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