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Increased misuse of CFA charter drives nearly 14,000 Professional Conduct cases.


The CFA® designation is recognized and valued around the world as the highest distinction in the investment profession. Each year, members fulfill their annual obligations to pay dues and submit Professional Conduct Statements, demonstrating their commitment to the high ethical standards that set CFA charterholders apart from their peers.

In recent years, however, the Professional Conduct team has noted a troubling increase in the number of individuals who have allowed their memberships in CFA Institute to lapse but who continue to use the designation, which is a violation of Standard of Professional Conduct VII(B). To address this problem, Professional Conduct created the “Misuse Program” designed to increase enforcement of Standard VII(B) and preserve the value and protect the reputation of the CFA designation for members who keep their memberships active by paying their dues and filing Professional Conduct Statements.

Beginning in 2016, Professional Conduct has searched publicly available information to identify individuals whose memberships have lapsed but who appear to still be using the CFA designation. Since the program’s inception, we have conducted more than 36,000 searches and found more than 13,900 instances of misuse of the designation by lapsed individuals (or those pending award of the charter) during the period 2012 through 2017.

When Professional Conduct finds a case of apparent misuse, we:

  1. Contact the lapsed person and remind them that only “active” charterholder members—those who have earned the CFA designation, submitted their Professional Conduct Statements, and paid their membership dues—have the right to use the CFA designation.
  2. Request that the person resolve the situation by either immediately reactivating his or her membership or by providing satisfactory evidence that he or she has ceased, and will continue to cease, misusing the designation.

Those who still choose not to reactivate their membership must remove all references to the CFA designation from their professional and social media profiles, including business cards, reports and correspondence, and any other instances in which they represent themselves as a CFA charterholder or member. Former members may refer to having been a CFA charterholder in the past—provided they clearly state the correct date range during which their membership was active (e.g., CFA charterholder: 2012–2016). (View guidelines on how to share you designation on social media.)

Approximately 58% of the lapsed individuals whom Professional Conduct has contacted have ceased misusing the CFA designation, while 42% have promptly reactivated their memberships. Of those who reactivated their memberships with CFA Institute, 55% also reactivated their memberships in their local CFA Society®.

Individuals who continue to misuse the CFA designation are subject to a Summary Suspension, which results in the revocation of their opportunity to regain membership and the right to use the designation. In addition, the names of those who have been summarily suspended for misusing the designation are published online alongside other Industry-Related Sanctions.

If you suspect someone is engaged in professional misconduct, including misusing the CFA designation, contact Professional Conduct via email, submit an online complaint, or mail evidence of misuse to CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program, 915 E. High Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902.

About the Author(s)

Stephanie Gibbons

Stephanie Gibbons is an investigator and manages the misuse program in Professional Conduct at CFA Institute.

Jeff Stith

Jeff Stith is head of Professional Conduct–Enforcement at CFA Institute.