Ethics Case Study of the Week: Candidates Discussing CFA Exam Experience

By Gary Sarkissian posted 01-19-2021 02:31 PM


CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct codify the ethical guidelines for the investment profession that are critical to maintaining the integrity of capital markets and investor trust.  Members, candidates, and even firms make a commitment to uphold these standards as they help elevate ethical decision-making universally around the globe.  

As investment professionals, we are certain to face important ethical decisions in our day-to-day activities.  Some scenarios we encounter will be straightforward, while others may be more complex.  No matter what circumstances we face, continuous learning remains imperative in an investment industry that continues to evolve with products undergoing innovation and a regulatory environment continuing to adapt. 

For that reason, each week we will feature a sample case from CFA Institute’s Ethics in Practice Casebook.  Each case is built upon a real-life example that may involve a regulatory matter or even a CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigation.  At the end of the case is a multiple-choice question that addresses the ethical nature of the actions taken in that case.  

This week’s case involves Standard VII(A) Conduct as Participants in CFA Institute Programs. 

Candidates Discussing CFA Exam Experience
Taveras is a CFA® charterholder who leads an exam preparation course given by his local CFA® Society for candidates in the CFA® Program. The society hosts a celebration for the students after the exam is over. During the celebration, a number of Taveras’s students describe their experience sitting for the exam. Most give their opinion about the relative difficulty of the exam given their expectations and some describe their surprise about areas of the curriculum that were not tested. Taveras asks his students their opinion on the most difficult questions on the exam. Taveras

A. is free to pass along information about the exam to candidates in future prep classes to help prepare them for the exam.
B. can provide the opinions of his students about the difficulty of the exam to candidates in future prep classes to emphasize the need to thoroughly prepare.
C. can solicit information about the exam questions from students in an effort to improve the course for future prep classes.
D. must not discuss the exam with students after it is over.

What do you think is the correct choice?  Click the “Analysis” button below to see the analysis, and feel free to discuss in the comments below.  The completion of this case qualifies for 0.25 hour of Standards, Ethics, and Regulation (SER) credit

This case relates to CFA Institute Standard VII(A): Conduct as Participants in CFA Institute Programs, which states that candidates must not engage in any conduct that compromises the integrity, validity, or security of CFA Institute Programs. It is natural and expected that a group of colleagues who have collectively gone through the rigorous process of studying for and taking the CFA® exam will want to celebrate the accomplishment and discuss the exam after it is over. Candidates can discuss their exam experience with Taveras in general terms. But they cannot provide specific information about the exam regarding the questions or the general areas tested.

And Taveras cannot pass along that information to future candidates and should not be soliciting information about specific questions or he would be in violation of the standard, which is designed to protect the integrity and security of future exams. The best answer is B because it is acceptable for Taveras to advise future prep classes that his previous students found the CFA exam to be more difficult than expected, so they should study the curriculum and prepare as much as possible.

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© 2019 CFA Institute. All rights reserved. You may copy and distribute this content, without modification and for non-commercial purposes, provided you attribute the content to CFA Institute and retain this copyright notice.  This case was written as a basis for discussion and is not prescriptive of how a business situation or professional conduct matter should or should not be handled or addressed. Certain characters mentioned are fictional to facilitate discussion, and any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental.