Last week we hosted a virtual discussion with Jeff Tenenbaum of Tenenbaum Law Group on understanding and mitigating the legal risks associated with association benchmarking and information exchanges. Prior to the virtual discussion, we surveyed leaders in the association industry and found that 33% of associations were performing more than 10 surveys a year, yet 92% were not sure how they were ensuring they abided by antitrust laws.
Providing statistical data is one of the key member benefits an association can offer and thus has become an integral part of most association’s operations. However, given the 92% stat above, we know that there is work to be done in this area to ensure your organization is safeguarding sensitive member collected data.
Some questions that were asked during the discussion were:
- (Q) What risks do an association face regarding 3rd-party research providers entering and handling raw data files of individual responses (tied to a respondent identity OR not) with the intent to import that data into their AMS or to save on a staff-wide network?
(A) : It is certainly much safer for the association to not hold the raw data in its own system whether it is an AMS system or their own network. If there is a good reason for collecting the data, it would be best on an anonymized basis, so you do not know the identity of the respondents. However, if there is a good reason to have the non-aggregated raw data, technically that is not going to be a violation of antitrust laws as long as that stays within the association and only the association staff has access to it. Anytime you are maintaining this in your system there is always a risk of data breaches and unauthorized leaks. Events like this could create a real risk, so the safer route would be a third-party provider like Dynamic Benchmarking, let them maintain the data, don’t bring it into your systems.
- (Q) In a salary survey if we ask impact on bonuses, pay raises, etc. during the past year (referring to pandemic) is that incorrect and not following safe harbor?
(A) It is not about being correct, if you want to comply with safe harbor rules, you can ask about that information. You can even ask about specific dollar amounts, percentage increases or decreases; this presents no problem if that data is at least 3 months old.
The virtual discussion was an engaging and informative event on legal risks that every association should be familiar with. If surveys are something your association is currently conducting, we encourage you to listen to the entire Q&A discussion and review an article on the subject of the antitrust risks from the Tenenbaum Law Group .