“The mission of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Professional Compliance Program is to promote professional integrity among AMGA members for the benefit of the AMGA community, the industry, and the public.”
The AMGA professional compliance program consists of the AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct, which establishes standards of conduct for AMGA members, and the Speak Up reporting platform which provides a confidential channel for AMGA members to report potential violations of the Code of Ethics and Conduct. This program was launched in 2019 to better meet AMGA members’ needs in reporting ethical concerns.
Updating the Professional Compliance Program at the AMGA
Since the Speak Up platform was introduced in 2019, much has been learned about professional compliance within the AMGA. It has become apparent the professional expectations of AMGA members have not always been clear. It has become evident the process for reviewing ethics complaints should be standardized and consistent. And perhaps most of all, it has been learned that the procedures used to investigate and review complaints should be transparent to the AMGA membership and fair to all parties involved.
To help improve understanding and increase transparency, the AMGA has developed a Professional Compliance Manual that seeks to establish clear behavioral expectations for AMGA members and a standardized process by which complaints of misconduct are supported, investigated, and adjudicated. This will promote objectivity, transparency, and consistency in the investigation and adjudication process to ensure it is fair to those involved in a complaint and credible to the AMGA membership.
In the fall of 2020, the AMGA Board of Directors assembled a “compliance task force” (Task Force) to advise AMGA staff in the process of reviewing and updating the professional compliance policies and procedures. The Task Force includes Angela Hawse, Geoff Unger, Lindsay Fixmer, Charles Goldman, and Paul Koubek. The Task Force has been serving in an advisory capacity for two AMGA staff members, Matt Wade and Holly Barrass, who have been leading the effort to review and revise the AMGA’s professional compliance program.
Research into Best Practices and Policy Review
In early 2021, AMGA staff interviewed compliance professionals at the Certified Financial Planners Board and The Mountaineers to learn about best practices in established professional compliance programs. AMGA staff also conducted a review of internal AMGA policies to determine if policy updates would be needed to effectively operate the professional compliance program. As a result of this research and introspection, a work plan was created to guide the completion of the AMGA Professional Compliance Manual by the end of 2021.
Opportunities for Improvement Identified
After completing an audit of AMGA’s current practices and comparing them to the practices used by established compliance programs, AMGA staff and the Task Force identified three items that would be necessary for the AMGA to implement a high-functioning professional compliance program. These items include an Anti-Harassment and Prohibited Behavior Policy, targeted updates to the AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct, and a comprehensive Professional Compliance Manual that includes the two aforementioned policies while also outlining the process by which ethical complaints are reviewed and adjudicated.
AMGA staff created drafts of these documents and shared them with the AMGA Governance Committee, AMGA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, AMGA Legal Counsel, and Investigations Law Group (ILG) for review and feedback. AMGA staff made numerous revisions based on the feedback received and produced a final version for the AMGA Board of Directors to review at the May 22, 2021 Board meeting. At the May meeting, the AMGA Board of Directors unanimously approved the draft documents to be shared with the AMGA membership for input and feedback during a 60-day comment period during the summer of 2021.
Request for AMGA Member Comment and Feedback
The AMGA is requesting feedback on the draft documents from AMGA members. Feedback can be provided through an online survey form or through two AMGA member listening sessions (details below). The survey includes several general questions about the draft documents and it provides an option for members to upload comment letters of any length. Any and all feedback is welcome, from generalized comments about the program as a whole to detailed comments about specific provisions. Comments will be accepted until 11:59 pm on August 23, 2021. The comments received will be used to inform a final version of the Professional Compliance Manual that will be submitted to the AMGA Board of Directors for approval and adoption at the October 30, 2021 Board meeting.
Items Included in the Comment Period
AMGA members are invited to comment on the draft Anti-Harassment and Prohibited Behavior Policy, proposed changes to the AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct, and the draft Professional Compliance Manual (which includes both of the aforementioned policies). Each of these items is described in brief below and the associated draft document is linked.
In response to the need for professional expectations to be more clear, particularly in the areas of harassment and retaliation, AMGA staff worked with Investigations Law Group to create an Anti-Harassment and Prohibited Behavior Policy (AHPB) for the AMGA. The draft AHPB articulates the commitment AMGA members make to maintaining a physically and emotionally safe environment, and it establishes clear behavioral expectations that are the foundation of an effective professional compliance program.
Four (4) targeted revisions to the AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct (the “Code”) are being proposed to support the proper functioning of the professional compliance program. The draft revisions aim to clarify the scope of the Code, incorporate the AHPB into the Code, and generally make the Code easier for AMGA members to interpret and understand. Most notably, the scope of the Code is clarified so it applies to the conduct of an AMGA member in their personal activities only if those activities have a connection to, or reflection on, the AMGA community.
The AMGA Professional Compliance Manual (the “Compliance Manual”) contains all of the policies that govern the ethical and professional expectations of AMGA members, including the Anti-Harassment and Prohibited Behavior Policy and revised AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct described above. The Compliance Manual also outlines the steps that are taken when an alleged violation of the AMGA Code of Ethics and Conduct is reported to the AMGA. This includes a detailed description of the process by which the AMGA receives a complaint, conducts an investigation, reviews the findings, and seeks to educate and repair harm. The procedures articulated in the Compliance Manual are intended to promote objectivity, transparency, and consistency in the investigation and adjudication process to ensure it is fair to those involved in a complaint and credible to the AMGA membership.
The flowchart provides a visual representation of the process that is used to intake, investigate, and adjudicate Speak Up complaints.
The Frequently Asked Questions document provides answers to common questions about the development of the new policies and procedures in the professional compliance program.
Submit Your Comments Today!
AMGA members are invited to submit comments using the online survey form or by attending a listening session on July 13, 2021 or August 10, 2021. The survey form includes several general questions and provides the option to upload a comment letter of any length. To register for a listening session, click on the link embedded in the date of your choice.
 Investigations Law Group is the workplace investigations firm that assists AMGA with the operation of the Speak Up reporting platform.