September 29, 2010
I strongly recommend that the committee become familiar with the various kinds of ombudsmen: legislative, executive, organizational and advocate. All share essential characteristics of independence, impartiality and confidentiality, but differ in other significant respects.
There are at least two resources that should be considered required reading:
- The American Bar Association's "Standards for the Establishment and Operation of Ombuds Offices," February, 2004 (http://www.abanet.org/adminlaw/ombuds/115.pdf) and
- The Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen and Federal Interagency ADR Working Group Steering Committee's, "A Guide for Federal Employee Ombuds," May 9, 2006 (http://www.adr.gov/pdf/final_ombuds.pdf).
Based on the few details provided by the Dodd-Frank Act (which indicates that the SEC ombuds will be an advocate for external stakeholders), it would seem that a legislative or advocate ombuds is the best fit. Many legislative and advocate ombudsmen practice to standards endorsed by the United States Ombudsman Association (http://www.usombudsman.org/en/references/standards.cfm)
If the proposed ombuds will be serving internal constituents such as employees, an organizational ombuds would be more appropriate. If this model is selected, the standards promulgated by the International Ombudsman Association must be considered (http://www.ombudsassociation.org/standards/).
In any case, the committee should take care not to confuse the differences between the types of ombuds. A "pure" model of one kind or another should be created so that the applicable professional standards are not degraded by the new office.
Tom A. Kosakowski