NACAC Comments on Antitrust Complaint and Proposed Consent Decree Filed by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice

Shanda Ivory

Arlington, VA (Dec 12, 2019) – Today the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint and proposed consent decree alleging that three provisions of the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC's) Code of Ethics and Professional Practices violated Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. 

NACAC is a nonprofit professional association representing high school counselors and college admission officials whose mission is to provide assistance to high school students as they decide on and transition to the college environment. The purpose of NACAC's code of ethics is to further that mission by helping to ensure truthfulness, transparency, and order in the college admission process.

NACAC cooperated fully throughout the two-year DOJ investigation. Before it was complete, NACAC recognized that the cost of its completion and potential litigation would have dire consequences on the association’s finances and ability to operate in the future. As a result, although NACAC believed that the code of ethics provisions in question best served the interests of students transitioning to college, the association agreed to delete those provisions.  NACAC did so voluntarily in September 2019 by vote of its Assembly of Delegates.

DOJ decided to file suit, however, and NACAC determined that the most pragmatic solution to conclude the matter was to enter into a consent decree which mandates that it delete the provisions of the ethical code that were already removed in September. The proposed decree specifies that the parties entered into the agreement prior to any decision whether the provisions in question violated any law, and that NACAC's agreement to the consent decree does not constitute any admission of liability. 

NACAC continues to believe that the now deleted provisions provided substantial aid and protection to students in their process of choosing and moving from high school to college.  However, the association understands its obligations under the decree and intends to strictly implement and abide by its provisions. The association agrees to submit a compliance plan that includes ensuring that its board of directors and staff understand their obligations under the decree, as well as helping to ensure that its members understand their obligations under the antitrust laws. 

NACAC will further examine its code of ethics in the coming year to determine how it can best continue to serve the interests of students to fulfill its mission. 

“NACAC will implement all requirements of the consent decree, and we will do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and commitment to students,” said Joyce E. Smith, CEO of NACAC. “We can and will remain a champion for the ethical practice of college admission and a steadfast advocate for protecting students in their transition to higher education.”


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The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), founded in 1937, is an organization of more than 15,000 professionals from around the world dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process, as outlined in the association's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.

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