American Psychological Association Settles Lawsuit Over Lobby Fees

From today’s Washington Post is word that the American Psychological Association (APA) has settled a class-action lawsuit with its membership.  At issue was the contention that the association had required several of its members to pay a voluntary fee to the group’s lobbying arm, the APA Practice Organization.  The alleged deception dates back to 2001.  The total cash payments of the settlement will be nine million dollars.

The settlement process is ongoing, and the court will either approve or reject the settlement later this year.  As you might expect, the terms of the settlement agreement include language asserting that there is no admission of any claims levied in the suit or any acknowledgment of liability.  The agreement also means the association will be more explicit in communicating that fees paid to the APA Practice Organization are optional.

The way the APA has a separate lobbying arm brings up the matter of how scientific societies do or do not engage with advocacy.  The particular issue here is only tangentially related to the question, in that members can opt to provide support of association lobbying independent of their membership dues.  I don’t have any particular recommendation of the best way to handle this matter, but I think it highlights how agreement of a scientific association on the state of the field doesn’t necessarily translate into agreement on policy choices.  Nor do I think it should, but that’s a separate discussion.


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