Ethics in Practice: New Professional Opportunities

Category: Ethics

Country or region: Asia Pacific (Overall)

Summary:
If the headline above sparked your interest, you are one of the thousands of honest, ethical, and well-meaning investment professionals who want to do the right thing when it comes to fulfilling your professional responsibilities. But sometimes the proper course of action is not always straightforward and obvious. To help with those situations, CFA Institute provides guidance through its Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (Code and Standards) as well as an Ethical Decision-Making Framework. But just as you need to practice to become proficient at playing a musical instrument, public speaking, or playing a sport, practicing assessing and analyzing situations and making ethical decisions develops your ethical decision-making skills. To promote “ethical exercise,” we are excited to introduce Ethics in Practice.
Each week, we will post a short vignette, drawn from real-world circumstances, regulatory cases, and CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigations, along with possible responses/actions (see below). Later in the week, we will post an analysis of the case and you can see how your response compares! Stay tuned!

We then encourage you to assess the case through the lens of the Ethical Decision-Making Framework and the Code and Standards and let us know which of the choices you believe is the right thing to do and why by using the comment field below.

CASE (Week 72)
Clemence is a wealth management adviser for DeLaurier Strategic Advisors, where she is responsible for financial planning, portfolio management, estate planning, and general wealth management for more than 400 retail clients. She met many of these clients through her spouse, who is a well-known attorney, and her sister, who is a physician. Clemence decides to resign her position with DeLaurier to take a position at another firm where she will not be expected to generate new advisory clients but will take on more research and investment management responsibilities. She leaves DeLaurier on good terms, providing her supervisor with all the background and information that DeLaurier needs to transition her clients seamlessly to a new account manager. All of her clients have insufficient assets under management to become clients of Clemence’s new firm.
 
On the day Clemence leaves DeLaurier, she hastily downloads an Excel file listing DeLaurier clients, potential clients, and former clients and sends it to her personal email address. The list includes client names, assets under management, addresses, and phone numbers. Clemence’s intention is to contact her clients as a courtesy to inform them of her new position, thank them for being clients, and express her confidence that DeLaurier will continue to provide them with competent and professional service even though she has left the firm.
 
Clemence’s actions are
 
A. inappropriate.
B. appropriate because she does not use DeLaurier’s client list to benefit her new firm.
C. appropriate because she is protecting the interests of her clients.
D. appropriate as long as she only contacts clients who are personal friends to inform them of her new position.
E. none of the above.

ANALYSIS
Clemence has violated her duty of loyalty to her employer by copying the client list and taking it with her to use after she leaves DeLaurier. CFA Institute Standard IV(A): Duties to Employers—Loyalty requires that CFA Institute members act for the benefit of their employer and not divulge confidential information or otherwise cause harm to the employer. The client list is the property of DeLaurier. It contains proprietary confidential information about DeLaurier clients that Clemence is improperly using for her own purposes, however benign those purposes may be. It is clear that Clemence is not motivated to use the client list and information it contains to benefit her new firm and is working with DeLaurier to protect the interests of her former clients and to make them feel comfortable in continuing to use DeLaurier as their financial advisor.
 
Clemence may contact her former clients who are friends through personal channels, such as social media or a personal contact, but she cannot use DeLaurier’s property to facilitate this communication. As an alternative, she could ask DeLaurier’s permission to take her clients’ contact information so that she might send them a final “thank you” correspondence. In hastily trying to get information regarding her clients, Clemence has actually overreached and taken much more information than intended. She has not only taken information about her clients but also that of the firm’s former, current, and potential clients. Choice A is the best answer.
 
This case is based on a CFA Institute Professional Conduct enforcement action from 2018 that resulted in a Private Censure.

Have an idea for a case for us to feature? Send it to us at ethicscases@cfainstitute.org. 


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