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Sharpe v. American Academy of Actuaries

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 12, 2018




         Plaintiff Timothy W. Sharpe is an actuary and voluntary member of defendant American Academy of Actuaries (the “Academy”), a professional accreditation association. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27, 36. Mr. Sharpe's six-count complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief from the Academy's alleged unlawful dissemination of information regarding Mr. Sharpe's disciplinary proceeding within the organization. Id. 29-39. Pending before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. Having confirmed that jurisdiction and venue is proper in this Court, P0F[1]P and upon consideration of the pleadings, relevant law, and related legal memoranda in opposition and in support, I find that all counts in the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion is GRANTED, and the complaint is DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Sharpe is an actuary who has been practicing the profession for nearly 30 years. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Among his clients are municipalities in the state of Illinois, for which he provides services related to pension matters. Id. Throughout his professional career, Mr. Sharpe has been a voluntary member of the Academy, a professional organization of actuaries with over 18, 500 members. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. In March 2014, Mr. Sharpe was the subject of a complaint filed with the Academy by Tia Sawhney, also an actuary, who raised concerns about Mr. Sharpe's alleged failure to comply with actuarial communication standards. Id. at ¶ 92.

         The Academy's Bylaws establishes an operating unit within the Academy, the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (“ABCD”), to consider complaints made against member actuaries and recommend discipline to the Academy. Id. at ¶¶ 36-40. While the ABCD is part of the Academy, it also follows its ABCD Rules of Procedure (“ABCD Rules”) setting forth its disciplinary process, which was promulgated pursuant to, and consistent with, the Academy's Bylaws' enabling provision. See Am. Compl. Ex. 2, Art. X, § 1 (establishing the ABCD and authorizing it to establish Rules of Procedure); id. Ex. 3 (the ABCD Rules).P1F[2]P The ABCD does not itself impose discipline on the subject actuary; rather, it makes a recommendation to the Academy, which makes a final determination on whether to discipline the subject actuary, and, if so, what form it should take. Id. at ¶ 40. Possible disciplinary actions include a private reprimand, public reprimand, suspension, or expulsion. Id.

         Both the Academy's Bylaws and the ABCD Rules contain provisions governing the confidentiality of disciplinary proceedings. In the Bylaws, Article Ten provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in these Bylaws, all proceedings under this Article shall be kept confidential by the ABCD, its staff, investigators, and advisers.” Am. Compl. Ex. 2, Art. X, § 9. In the ABCD Rules, Section Ten similarly provides that “[t]he ABCD will make a reasonable effort to keep confidential the facts and circumstances involved in any matter considered by the ABCD for possible counseling or recommendations for discipline or the services of a mediator.” Id. Ex. 3, § 10. However, both governing documents are explicit that the ABCD can provide the complainant with information on the disciplinary proceedings. Both documents state that the “requirement as to confidentiality shall not preclude the ABCD from [] [a]dvising complainants and subject actuaries about the progress and outcome of matters under consideration”. Id.; id. Ex. 2, Art. X, § 9. There is no confidentiality requirement imposed upon complainants (or, for that matter, the subject of a complaint).

         In Mr. Sharpe's case, the Academy held a hearing on December 7, 2015 to consider the allegations, which Mr. Sharpe was unable to attend due to a serious illness involving his mother. Id. at ¶ 110. On January 29, 2016, the ABCD issued a written report recommending that the Academy expel Mr. Sharpe from membership. Id. at ¶ 112. On February 9, 2016, an article appeared on a website, WirePoints, under the headline: “Illinois Fire and Police Pension Actuary Facing Actuarial Discipline - WP Exclusive.” Id. Ex. 1. The article, authored by Mark Glennon, founder of WirePoints, stated that the ABCD had “recently recommended that Timothy Sharpe, actuary to dozens of troubled Illinois fire and police pension funds, be expelled from membership in the [Academy], ” and that the “recommendation is the result of separate complaints by two actuaries, one by actuary Tia Goss Sawhney.” Id.

         Mr. Sharpe contends that the Academy and/or ABCD must have improperly disseminated the ABCD's recommendation of expulsion, and that this allegedly improper conduct has resulted in the loss of clients. Id. at ¶¶ 131, 139. Accordingly, Mr. Sharpe sued the Academy for breach of contract, negligence, publication of private facts, denial of due process and fair procedure, tortious interference with contract, and tortious interference with prospective business advantage. Id. at 29-38. The Academy responds that Mr. Sharpe fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. For the reasons that follow, I find that each count in the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and dismiss the complaint in its entirety.


         A party may move to dismiss a complaint on the ground that it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” This requires the complaint to contain sufficient factual allegations that, if true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A complaint is insufficient if it merely offers “‘labels and conclusions'” or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 546). Rather, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Plausibility “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” id., and pleading facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545-46.

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pled factual allegations. See In re United Mine Workers of Am. Emp. Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994). The Court does not accept as true legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Last, “[i]n determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, [the court] may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the court] may take judicial notice.” Hurd v. District of Columbia Gov't, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         As this matter is properly before the Court based on diversity of citizenship, P2F[3]P I must first address which state law controls Mr. Sharpe's claims. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). In this District, the Court must first determine whether there is a conflict between the laws of the relevant jurisdictions, and if not, apply the law of the District of Columbia. GEICO v. Fetisoff, 958 F.2d 1137, 1141 (D.C. Cir. 1992). The Defendant argues that no “true conflict” exists between District of Columbia law and Illinois law, Mem. of P. & A. in Support of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Am. Compl. 21-24, and the Plaintiff does not address the issue in his brief. Having reviewed the laws of both jurisdictions, I agree with the Defendant that no “true conflict” exists. See GEICO, 958 F.2d at 1141. Analyzing the Amended Complaint under District of Columbia law, I find that the Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on each of the counts alleged.

         A. ...

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