Timeline of actions in Mercy Corps’ response to details of abuse by co-founder Ellsworth Culver

In October 2019 it was revealed that Tania Culver Humphrey, daughter of Mercy Corps co-founder Ellsworth Culver, brought details of sexual abuse perpetrated by him to the attention of leaders at the organization in the early 1990s and again in 2018. Those at Mercy Corps who engaged with Ms. Humphrey, both in the early 1990s and again last year, failed her in their response and failed to live up to our values.

The Mercy Corps Board of Directors has taken swift action to understand how people and processes failed in order to correct any governance and management issues, rebuild broken trust and become a better ally to survivors of abuse.

This timeline details key action taken following the revelations, and will be updated with new information on an ongoing basis. For additional information, please see our FAQ.


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 members.

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 members 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 has 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. The evidence and findings that emerge from this review will also inform the next phases of the review process. This may include and is not limited to further investigation of the events that occured in the early 1990s and Ellsworth Culver’s time at the agency.

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.