In a recent TIME Magazine article, a claim of misconduct was made about an “influential figure in EA”:
A third [woman] described an unsettling experience with an influential figure in EA whose role included picking out promising students and funneling them towards highly coveted jobs. After that leader arranged for her to be flown to the U.K. for a job interview, she recalls being surprised to discover that she was expected to stay in his home, not a hotel. When she arrived, she says, “he told me he needed to masturbate before seeing me.”
Shortly after the article came out, Julia Wise (CEA’s community liaison) informed the EV UK board that this concerned behaviour of Owen Cotton-Barratt; the incident occurred more than 5 years ago and was reported to her in 2021. (Owen became a board member in 2020.)
Following this, on February 11th, Owen voluntarily resigned from the board. This included stepping down from his role with Wytham Abbey; he is also no longer helping organise The Summit on Existential Security.
Though Owen’s account of the incident differs in scope and emphasis from the version expressed in the TIME article, he still believes that he made significant mistakes, and also notes that there have been other cases where he regretted his behaviour.
It's very important to us that EV and the wider EA community strive to provide safe and respectful environments, and that we have reliable mechanisms for investigating and addressing claims of misconduct in the EA community. So, in order to better understand what happened, we are commissioning an external investigation by an independent law firm into Owen’s behaviour and the Community Health team’s response.
This post is jointly from the Board of EV UK: Claire Zabel, Nick Beckstead, Tasha McCauley and Will MacAskill.
The disclosure occurred as follows: shortly after the article came out, Owen and Julia agreed that Julia would work out whether Owen's identity should be disclosed to other people in EV UK and EV US; Julia determined that it should be shared with the boards.
Julia writes about her response at the time here.
See comment here from Chana Messinger on behalf of the Community Health team.