Timeline of actions in Mercy Corps’ response to details of abuse by co-founder Ellsworth Culver
In October 2019, the Mercy Corps Board of Directors hired investigative firm Vestry Laight to conduct an independent, external review into what steps were taken when reports of abuse by Mercy Corps’ late co-founder Ellsworth Culver were brought to the organization’s attention in 2018. The Board also initiated a separate external evaluation of current safeguarding policies and procedures at Mercy Corps, conducted by law firm Nichols Liu. In February 2020, Mercy Corps published these reports and accompanying commitments to action. You can see the reports and commitments to action on our website here.
In response to the Vestry Laight and Nichols Liu reports, Mercy Corps’ Board of Directors and Executive team announced commitments to action to restructure and strengthen legal, ethics and safeguarding functions, update policies and strengthen Board governance. We are reporting twice a year on progress fulfilling our commitments to action, with bi-annual progress reports from July 2020 and January 2021 available. Mercy Corps’ annual Global Safeguarding Reports are also available on our website (Fiscal Year 2020, Fiscal Year 2019 parts 1 and 2).
Mercy Corps is committed to taking responsibility for our failings in this case, providing transparency to our community, and taking action to ensure when issues do arise, we put survivors first and provide them with the support they need.
May 19, 2021: Mercy Corps published a report of the independent, external investigation conducted by Freeh Group to determine the extent of the abuse perpetrated by Ellsworth Culver and any other abusers who might be identified, and to review the response of the Mercy Corps Board in 1992 and 1993 when the organization was first made aware of the abuse by Culver. A statement of response by the Mercy Corps Board of Directors can be found here. The report does not relate to any current Mercy Corps team members, Board Directors, or programming.
January 28, 2021: Mercy Corps released its second progress report on the delivery of its commitments to action.
November 18, 2020: Mercy Corps released its 2020 Global Safeguarding Report.
August 17, 2020: Mercy Corps announced new CEO, Tjada D'Oyen McKenna.
July 30, 2020: Mercy Corps released its first progress report on the delivery of its commitments to action.
May 2020: Following an open and thorough selection process, Mercy Corps selected Freeh Group International Solutions (FGIS) to conduct an investigation into how Mercy Corps handled reports of abuse perpetrated by the organization’s late co-founder Ellsworth Culver when brought to the organization’s attention in the 1990s, and to determine the extent of sexual abuse committed by Culver.
This second-phase investigation is part of Mercy Corps’ commitments to action. As part of action against these commitments, the position of Chief Ethics and Compliance officer was posted and we continued to strengthen our approach to safeguarding with the recruitment of two case managers and three investigators.
Spring 2020: Mercy Corps published part two of its first annual Global Safeguarding Report (for 2019).
February 5, 2020: Mercy Corps published Vestry Laight’s independent, external review into what steps were taken when allegations of abuse by Mercy Corps’ late co-founder Ellsworth Culver were brought to the organization’s attention in 2018. Mercy Corps also published a separate external evaluation of Mercy Corps’ current safeguarding policies and procedures, conducted by legal firm Nichols Liu.
Coinciding with the publication of the reports, Mercy Corps’ Board of Directors and Executive Team shared our commitments to action and the Board of Directors released a statement. Click here to read the letter, our commitments to action and the Vestry Laight and Nichols Liu reports.
November 2019: Mercy Corps released part one of its first annual Global Safeguarding Report (for 2019).
October 23, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board announced that Vestry Laight will conduct the independent investigation into what steps were taken in 2018 after Tania Culver Humphrey and her husband asked Mercy Corps to re-examine its 1993 investigation into her abuse. Vestry Laight begins its investigation immediately, and will interview current and former Mercy Corps employees and Board Directors.
Vestry Laight was selected based on the team’s extensive experience working with traumatized survivors in a variety of contexts and ability to understand their needs and concerns. The firm has a depth of expertise in helping organizations respond to and resolve sexual misconduct issues, as well as conducting sexual abuse investigations and developing solutions to improve treatment of survivors. Vestry Laight's full scope of work can be found here.
October 16, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board of Directors established criteria for a special committee to oversee an independent review into what happened when Tania Culver Humphrey and her husband contacted Mercy Corps in 2018. The Board committed to selecting two Mercy Corps employees to join the committee using the same criteria. Criteria for the special committee:
- No close ties to any members of the current Executive Team or former CEO Neal Keny-Guyer
- No personal relationships with Ellsworth Culver, former Board Directors who conducted the initial investigation in the 1990s (Dan O’Neill, Raymond Vath, Robert Newell) or with those who managed Mercy Corps’ response to Tania Culver Humphrey in 2018
- No prior knowledge of the related events in the 1990s or 2018
- Diverse representation
October 16, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board of Directors appointed Directors to lead the search and selection process for a new CEO.
October 14, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board of Directors selected Beth deHamel as interim CEO while they conduct a search for a long term leader. deHamel served as Mercy Corps’ Chief Financial Officer since 2012. See press release.
October 10, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board of Directors initiated the search for a firm to conduct an independent, external review to thoroughly examine the organization’s handling of Ms. Humphrey’s contact with Mercy Corps in 2018 and Mercy Corps’ safeguarding policies and leadership accountability.
October 10, 2019: The Mercy Corps Board of Directors accepted CEO Neal Keny-Guyer’s resignation, immediate by mutual agreement. As Mercy Corps CEO since 1994, Keny-Guyer was instrumental in building Mercy Corps into the global organization it is today, and he and the board agreed that his resignation was in Mercy Corps’ best interest. His resignation followed the resignation of Barnes Ellis, Mercy Corps Corporate Secretary and Senior Legal Counsel, and the resignation of Robert Newell from the Mercy Corps Board of Directors. See press release.