Resource Center: Professional Standards

Complaints and Disciplinary Actions

In order to maintain and enhance the credibility of AFCPE’s certification programs, the Certification Council has adopted the following procedures to allow individuals to bring complaints concerning the conduct of AFCPE professionals to the AFCPE Certification Council. 

In order to maintain and enhance the credibility of AFCPE’s certification programs, the Certification Council has adopted the following procedures to allow individuals to bring complaints concerning the conduct of AFCPE certificants’ to the AFCPE Certification Council.

In the event a certificant violates the AFCPE Code of Ethics, certification program rules, requirements, and/or policies, the Certification Council may reprimand or suspend the individual or may revoke certification.

The grounds for sanctions under these procedures may include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Violation of established AFCPE Code of Ethics, rules, requirements, and/or policies.
  • Conviction of a felony or other crime of moral turpitude under federal or state law in a matter related to the practice of, or qualifications for, financial counseling.
  • Gross negligence, willful misconduct, or other unethical conduct in the performance of services for which the individual has achieved AFCPE certification.
  • Fraud, falsification, or misrepresentation in an initial application or renewal application for certification.
  • Falsification of any material information requested by the AFCPE or Certification Council.
  • Misrepresentation of AFCPE certification status.
  • Cheating on any certification examination.

Actions taken under this policy do not constitute enforcement of the law, although referral to appropriate federal, state, or local government agencies may be made about the conduct of the certificant in appropriate situations. Individuals initially bringing complaints are not entitled to any relief or damages by virtue of this process, although they will receive notice of the actions taken.

Complaints


Complaints may be submitted by any individual or entity. Complaints should be reported to the Certification Council in writing and should include the name of the person submitting the complaint, the name of the person the complaint is regarding along with other relevant identifying information, a detailed description of factual allegations supporting the charges, and any relevant supporting documentation. Information submitted during the complaint and investigation process is considered confidential and will be handled in accordance with the Council’s Confidentiality policy. Inquiries or submissions other than complaints may be reviewed and handled by the Council Chair or Certification Program Director at its discretion.

Upon receipt and preliminary review of a complaint involving the certification program, the Certification Program Director in consultation with the Council Chair may conclude, in their sole discretion, that the submission:

  • contains unreliable or insufficient information, or
  • is patently frivolous or inconsequential.

If the Program Director and Council Chair do not reach consensus the preliminary review may be referred to the Certification Council.

In such cases, the Certification Program Director and Council Chair may determine that the submission does not constitute a valid and actionable complaint that would justify bringing it before the Council for investigation and a determination of whether there has been a violation of substantive requirements of the certification process. If so, the submission is disposed of by notice from the Certification Program Director and Council to its submitter.

Preliminary review will be conducted within 15 business days of receipt of the complaint.

If a submission is deemed by the Certification Program Director and Council to be a valid and actionable complaint, the Council will see that written notice is provided to the certificant whose conduct has been called into question. The certificant whose conduct is at issue will also be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint. The Council will ensure that the individual submitting the complaint receives notice that the complaint is being reviewed by the Council.

The Executive Director will be notified of all complaints and will be kept informed of the progress and outcome of all investigations.

Complaint Review

For each compliant the Council concludes is a valid and actionable complaint, the Council authorizes an investigation into its specific facts or circumstances to whatever extent is necessary in order to clarify, expand, or corroborate the information provided by the submitter.

The Council appoints a Review Committee of three or more individuals, who may or may not be members of the Council to investigate and make an appropriate determination with respect to each such valid and actionable complaint; the Review Committee may review one or more such complaints as determined by the Council. The Review Committee initially determines whether it is appropriate to review the complaint under these Procedures or whether the matter should be referred to another entity engaged in the administration of law. The timeline for responses and for providing any additional information will be established by the Review Committee. The Review Committee may be assisted in the conduct of its investigation by other members of the Council or by Board and/or AFCPE staff or legal counsel. The Council exercises general supervision over all investigations.

Both the individual submitting the complaint and the certificant who is the subject of the investigation (or his or her employer) may be contacted for additional information with respect to the complaint. The Review Committee, or the Council on its behalf, may at its discretion contact such other individuals who may have knowledge of the facts and circumstances surrounding the complaint.

All investigations and deliberations of the Review Committee and the Council are conducted in confidence, with all written communications sealed and marked "Personal and Confidential," and they are conducted objectively, without any indication of prejudgment. An investigation may be directed toward any aspect of a complaint which is relevant or potentially relevant. Formal hearings are not held and the parties are not expected to be represented by legal counsel, although the Review Committee and Council may consult their own legal counsel.

Members of the Review Committee will be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the activities of the Committee.

Determination of Violation

Upon completion of an investigation, the Review Committee recommends whether the Council should make a determination that there has been a violation of Council policies and rules. When the Review Committee recommends that the Council find a violation, the Review Committee also recommends imposition of an appropriate sanction. If the Review Committee so recommends, a proposed determination with a proposed sanction is prepared under the supervision of the chair and is presented by a representative of the Review Committee to the Council along with the record of the Review Committee's investigation.

If the Review Committee recommends against a determination that a violation has occurred, the complaint is dismissed with notice to the certificant, the certificant's employer (if involved in the investigation), and the individual or entity who submitted the complaint.

The Council reviews the recommendation of the Review Committee based upon the record of the investigation. The Council may accept, reject, or modify the Review Committee's recommendation, either with respect to the determination of a violation or the recommended sanction to be imposed. If the Council makes a determination that a violation has occurred, this determination and the imposition of a sanction are promulgated by written notice to the certificant, and to the individual submitting the complaint, if the submitter agrees in advance and in writing to maintain in confidence whatever portion of the information is not made public by the Council.

In certain circumstances, the Council may consider a recommendation from the Review Committee that the certificant who has violated the certification program policies or rules should be offered an opportunity to submit a written assurance that the conduct in question has been terminated and will not recur. The decision of the Review Committee to make such a recommendation and of the Council to accept it are within their respective discretionary powers. If such an offer is extended, the certificant at issue must submit the required written assurance within thirty (30) days of receipt of the offer, and the assurance must be submitted in terms that are acceptable to the Council. If the Council accepts the assurance, notice is given to the certificants employer and to the submitter of the complaint, if the submitter agrees in advance and in writing to maintain the information in confidence.

Sanctions

Any of the following sanctions may be imposed by the Council upon a certificant whom the Council has determined to have violated the policies and rules of its certification program(s), although the sanction applied must reasonably relate to the nature and severity of the violation, focusing on reformation of the conduct of the member and deterrence of similar conduct by others:

  • written reprimand to the certificant;
  • completion of additional continuing education activities;
  • suspension of the certificant for a designated period; or
  • termination of the certificant’s credential.

Verification of this information will be made available only after any appeal has either been considered or the appeal period has passed.

Reprimand in the form of a written notice from the Council normally is sent to a certificant who has received his or her first substantiated complaint. Suspension normally is imposed on a certificant who has received two substantiated complaints. Termination normally is imposed on a certificant who has received two substantiated complaints within a two year period, or three or more substantiated complaints. The Council may at its discretion, however, impose any of the sanctions, if warranted, in specific cases.

Certificants who have been terminated will have their certification revoked and may not be considered for AFCPE certification in the future. If certification is revoked, any and all certificates/diplomas or other materials requested by the Council must be returned promptly to AFCPE.

Appeal


Within thirty (30) days from receipt of notice of a determination by the Council that a certificant violated the certification program policies and/or rules, the affected certificant may submit to the Council in writing a request for an appeal.

Upon receipt of a request for appeal, the Council establishes an appellate body consisting of at least three, but not more than five individuals. This Appeals Committee may review one or more appeals, upon request of the Council. No current members of the Review Committee or the Council may serve on the Appeals Committee; further, no one with any personal involvement or conflict of interest may serve on the Appeals Committee. Members of the Appeals Committee may be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred in connection with the activities of the Committee.

The Appeals Committee may only review whether the determination by the Council of a violation of the certification program policies and/or rules was inappropriate because of:

  • material errors of fact, or
  • failure of the Review Committee or the Council to conform to published criteria, policies, or procedures.

Only facts and conditions up to and including the time of the Council’s determination as represented by facts known to the Council are considered during an appeal. The appeal will not include a hearing or any similar trial-type proceeding. Legal counsel is not expected to participate in the appeal process, unless requested by the appellant and approved by the Council and the Appeals Committee. The Council and Appeals Committee may consult legal counsel.

The Appeals Committee conducts and completes the appeal within ninety (90) days after receipt of the request for an appeal. Written appellate submissions and any reply submissions may be made by authorized representatives of the member and of the Council. Submissions are made according to whatever schedule is reasonably established by the Appeals Committee. The decision of the Appeals Committee either affirms or overrules the determination of the Council, but does not address a sanction imposed by the Council. The decision of the Appeals Committee, including a statement of the reasons for the decision, is reported to the Council.

The Appeals Committee decision is binding upon the Council, the certificant who is subject to the termination, and all other persons.

Resignation


If a certificant who is the subject of a complaint voluntarily surrenders his or her certification(s) at any time during the pendency of a complaint under these Procedures, the complaint is dismissed without any further action by the Review Committee, the Council, or an Appeals Committee established after an appeal. The entire record is sealed and the individual may not reapply for certification. However, the Council may authorize to communicate the fact and date of resignation, and the fact and general nature of the complaint which was pending at the time of the resignation, to or at the request of a government entity engaged in the administration of law. Similarly, in the event of such resignation, the certificant’s employer and the person or entity who submitted the complaint are notified of the fact and date of resignation and that Council has dismissed the complaint as a result.

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