ASPPA Code of Professional Conduct
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The purpose of this Code of Professional Conduct (“Code”) is to identify the professional and ethical standards with which a Member must comply, in order to fulfill the Member’s responsibility to ASPPA and its affiliate organizations, other Members, and the public. Members are required to adhere to the high standards of conduct, practice, and qualification set forth in this Code.
• Advertising: all communications by whatever medium, including oral communications, which may directly or indirectly influence any person or organization to decide whether there is a need for Professional Services or to select a specific person or firm to perform such services.
• Confidential Information: information not in the public domain of which the Member becomes aware during the course of rendering Professional Services to a Principal. It may include information of a proprietary nature, information which is legally restricted from circulation, or information which the Member has reason to believe that the Principal would not wish to be divulged.
• Credential: a membership designation (e.g., Certified Pension Consultant; Member, Society of Pension Actuaries; or Associated Professional Member) conferred by ASPPA.
• Law: statutes, regulations, judicial decisions, and other statements having legally binding authority.
• Member: An individual who is a Member of ASPPA or any affiliate organization of ASPPA.
• Principal: any present or prospective client of a Member or the employer of a Member where the Member provides retirement plan services for their employer’s plan.
• Professional Communication: a written, electronic or oral communication issued by a Member with respect to Professional Services.
• Professional Services: services provided to a Principal by a Member, including the rendering of advice, recommendations, findings, or opinions related to a retirement or other employee benefit plan.
• Titles: leadership positions, volunteer experience, awards and other honors conferred by ASPPA.
Member shall not engage in any Advertising with respect to Professional Services that the Member knows or is reasonably expected to know are false.
A Member who issues a Professional Communication shall take appropriate steps to ensure that the Professional Communication is appropriate to the circumstances and its intended audience.
A Member shall be knowledgeable about this Code, keep current with Code revisions and abide by its provisions. Laws may impose binding obligations on a Member. This Code is not intended to supplant, contradict or supersede Law (e.g., Circular 230) or other Codes of Conduct that establish professional standards for Members in the rendition of Professional Services and that have been sanctioned by the federal or a state government. Where the requirements of Law or such governmentally-sanctioned Codes conflict with this Code, the requirements of Law or such governmentally-sanctioned Codes take precedence.
A Member shall not disclose to another party any Confidential Information obtained in rendering Professional Services for a Principal unless authorized to do so by the Principal or required to do so by Law.
6. Conflicts of Interest
A Member shall not perform Professional Services involving an actual conflict of interest unless:
A. The Member’s ability to act fairly is unimpaired; and
B. There has been full disclosure of the conflict to the Principal(s); and
C. All Principals have expressly agreed to the performance of the services by the Member.
If the Member is aware of any significant conflict between the interests of a Principal and the interests of another party, the Member should advise the Principal of the conflict and include appropriate qualifications or disclosures in any related communication.
7. Control of Work Product
A Member shall not perform Professional Services when the Member has reason to believe that they may be altered in a material way or may be used to violate or evade the Law. The Member should recognize the risk that materials prepared by the Member could be misquoted, misinterpreted or otherwise misused by another party to influence the actions of a third party and should take reasonable steps to ensure that the material is presented fairly and that the sources of the material are identified.
8. Courtesy and Cooperation
A. A Member shall perform Professional Services with courtesy and shall cooperate with others in the Principal’s interest. A Principal has an indisputable right to choose a professional advisor. A Member may provide service to any Principal who requests it even though such Principal is being or has been served by another professional in the same manner.
B. When a Principal has given consent for a new or additional professional to consult with a Member with respect to a matter for which the Member is providing or has provided Professional Services, the Member shall cooperate in assembling and transmitting pertinent data and documents, subject to receiving reasonable compensation for the work required to do so. In accordance with Circular 230, the Member shall promptly, at the request of the Principal, return any and all records of the Principal that are necessary for the Principal to comply with federal tax Law, even if the Member is not subject to Circular 230. The existence of a fee dispute generally does not relieve the Member of this responsibility except to the extent permitted by applicable state Law. The Member need not provide any items of a proprietary nature or work product for which the Member has not been compensated.
A Member shall make full and timely disclosure to a present or prospective Principal of all sources of direct or indirect material compensation or other material consideration that the Member or the Member’s firm has received or may receive in relation to an assignment for such Principal. The disclosure of sources of material compensation or consideration that the Member’s firm has received, or may receive, is limited to those sources known to, or reasonably ascertainable by, the Member.
10. Professional Integrity
A Member shall perform Professional Services, and shall take reasonable steps to ensure that Professional Services rendered under the Member’s supervision are performed, with honesty, integrity, skill and care. A Member has an obligation to observe standards of professional conduct in the course of providing advice, recommendations and other services performed for a Principal. A Member who pleads guilty to or is found guilty of any misdemeanor related to financial matters or any felony shall be presumed to have contravened this Code and shall be subject to ASPPA’s counseling and disciplinary procedures.
11. Qualification Standards
A Member shall render opinions or advice, or perform Professional Services, only when qualified to do so based on education, training and experience.
12. Titles and Credentials
A Member shall make truthful use of the membership Titles and Credentials of ASPPA to which the Member is entitled, and only where that use conforms to the practices authorized by ASPPA.
13. Additional Obligations
A. A Member whose professional conduct is regulated by another membership organization shall abide by the professional Code of Conduct (or similar rules) of such organization. For example, a Member who is an actuary shall also abide by the Code of Professional Conduct for actuaries.
B. A Member shall respond promptly in writing to any communication received from a person duly authorized by ASPPA to obtain information or assistance regarding a Member’s possible violation of this Code. The Member’s responsibility to respond shall be subject to Section 5 of this Code, “Confidentiality,” and any other confidentiality requirements imposed by Law. In the absence of a full and timely response, ASPPA may resolve such possible violations based on available information.