Edict -- Code of Ethics
I. CODE OF ETHICS: TO PRESERVE THE HIGH ETHICAL STANDARDS OF THE CIVIL ENGINEERING PROFESSION, THE SOCIETY MAINTAINS AND ENFORCES A CODE OF ETHICS.
- Applicability: All Society members must subscribe to the Society?s Code of Ethics (the ?Code?). ASCE Constitution, Article II, ? 1; ASCE Rules of Policy and Procedure, Article III, ? 1.
- Duty: It is the duty of every Society member to report promptly to the Committee on Professional Conduct any observed violation of the Code. ASCE Rules of Policy and Procedure, Article III, ? 1.
II. HISTORY OF THE CODE: THE CODE WAS FIRST ADOPTED IN 1914 AND HAS BEEN AMENDED NUMEROUS TIMES THEREAFTER.
- Background: Between 1877 and 1914, the Society?s Board of Direction was very conservative and believed that ethics was a matter of an engineer?s personal responsibility and honor and not appropriate for a written code. In response to a motion concerning professional conduct in 1877, the Board resolved ?[t]hat it is inexpedient for the Society to instruct its members as to their duties in private professional matters.? In 1914, however, a special committee of the Board of Direction was appointed to draft a Code. The original Code contained six principles. It was approved by letter ballot of the membership and was adopted on September 2, 1914.
- Original Scope: The original Code focused largely upon relationships of engineers with their clients or with other engineers, rather than responsibilities to the public.
- Guidelines to Practice: On April 10-11, 1961, the Board of Direction adopted the Guidelines to Practice, as an adjunct to the Code.
- Fundamental Principles: The Fundamental Principles were approved by the Engineers? Council for Professional Development on September 30, 1963, and endorsed by the ASCE Board of Direction on May 11-12, 1964. A revised version was approved by the ASCE Board of Direction on April 12-14, 1975.
- Department of Justice: Periodically, the Code has been the subject of Department of Justice antitrust investigations.
A. Competitive Bidding Provision: Prior to 1971, the Code contained a provision which made it unethical ?[t]o invite or submit priced proposals under conditions that constitute price competition for professional services.?
i. Enforcement: In 1954, the Society found fourteen members guilty of violating the competitive bidding provision.
ii. Antitrust Investigation: In 1971, the Department of Justice accused the Society of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
iii. Compliance: In October 1971, the Society voluntarily removed the competitive bidding provision from the Code. In 1972, the Society entered into a Consent Decree with the Department of Justice and annotated the Code to note that the submission of fee quotations was not unethical. The American Institute of Architects (?AIA?) entered into a similar decree with respect to its Standards of Ethical Practice.
iv. National Society of Professional Engineers: The National Society of Professional Engineers (?NSPE?) was also investigated by the Department of Justice for a similar provision in their Code of Ethics. Unlike ASCE and AIA, NSPE did not elect to settle the case, which was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court ruled in favor of the Department of Justice, finding NSPE?s competitive bidding provision violative of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
B. Additional Provisions: A subsequent Department of Justice investigation in 1992 led to voluntary revisions to Canon 5, ?? (a), (c), and (f) of the Code to eliminate language which prohibited ?self-laudatory? advertising and to clarify prohibitions on unlawful consideration and contingency fees.
- Environmental Amendments: Most recently, the Society amended the Code on November 10, 1996 to incorporate the principles of sustainable development.
III. AMENDMENTS TO THE CODE: THE BOARD OF DIRECTION MAY ADOPT AMENDMENTS TO THE CODE BY A TWO-THIRDS VOTE.
- Committee on Professional Practice: The Committee on Professional Practice (?CPP?) is responsible for periodically reviewing the Code and recommending to the Board any changes which it deems necessary. ASCE Bylaws, Article VII, ? 2; Article VIII, ? 2 (m). CPP has delegated this responsibility to its constituent committee, the Committee on Practice Guidelines.