On a daily basis, engineers tend to focus on their technical responsibilities to their clients and their most important task, to “hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.” Engineers may not consider themselves as a fiduciary for their clients, but are their actions and language in line with their intent?
In the March 2020 SE University session, Matthew Rechtien, PE, Esq., from Walter P. Moore, presented 2020 Engineering Ethics Update: Fiduciary Duties. Matt explained what a fiduciary is, situations in which engineers become fiduciaries, and how to avoid inadvertently becoming a fiduciary.
Whether engineers are fiduciaries in certain situations is open for debate. On one hand, engineering ethics rules establish duties of a fiduciary nature. Furthermore, engineers can create fiduciary status through contracts and courses or dealing. However, ethics duties do not necessarily impose civil liability. Furthermore, engineers have compelling obligations to the public and its safety. Engineers should approach fiduciary status with caution and avoid accidentally becoming fiduciaries if they want to avoid the additional liabilities fiduciaries incur. In this short video, Matt offers tips for engineers to avoid inadvertently becoming fiduciaries in their contracts.