Mercy Corps Publishes External Review Examining 2018 Handling of Reports Regarding Co-Founder’s History of Abuse

February 05, 2020

Mercy Corps to conduct further investigation into co-founder, will also appoint Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer

Portland, Ore -- The global organization Mercy Corps today published an independent, external review examining what steps were taken when reports of sexual abuse by Mercy Corps’ late co-founder Ellsworth Culver were brought to the organization’s attention in 2018.

The review, conducted by New York-based firm Vestry Laight, found that Mercy Corps made errors of judgment in its handling of the matter in 2018. These errors included failing to treat a survivor of abuse in accordance with Mercy Corps’ values. Vestry Laight also concluded that Mercy Corps did not commit any intentional wrongdoing and did not make any effort to cover up the survivor’s experience.

“The external review makes it clear that Mercy Corps’ handling of this case in 2018 added to a survivor’s pain, and for that we are profoundly sorry” says Beth deHamel, Interim Chief Executive Officer for Mercy Corps. “We take full responsibility for Mercy Corps’ failings in this case. We have learned lessons from what happened and we are taking corrective action, including a significant increase in our investment in safeguarding, to ensure Mercy Corps provides survivors with the support they need and deserve.”

Mercy Corps also today published a separate external evaluation of the organization's current safeguarding policies and procedures, conducted by law firm Nichols Liu. Both the Vestry Laight and Nichols Liu reports are available on Mercy Corps’ website.

Mercy Corps’ Management and Board of Directors unanimously accept the findings and recommendations contained in both reports. The Mercy Corps Board today issued a statement regarding both reports.

Mercy Corps also announced it will conduct a second phase of investigation to determine the extent of sexual abuse committed by Ellsworth Culver during his time at the organization. The organization will also restructure the legal, ethics and safeguarding functions, appointing a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer reporting to the CEO and the Board of Directors. Mercy Corps today published a full list of commitments to action.