Welcome to the Conflict of Interest Blog
Welcome to Day One of the Conflicts of Interest Blog! Here’s an overview of the “what,” “why” “how,” “who” and “when” of this blog.
What. The focus of the blog is conflicts of interests (“COIs”) in and otherwise involving business organizations – meaning what they are and how they can be addressed effectively through disclosure requirements and various other compliance and ethics (“C&E”) measures. To a small extent we will cover other types of conflicts – such as those involving professions (e.g. law, journalism) or other types of organizations (e.g., various sorts of governmental bodies and non-profit entities) – but our principal aim in doing so will be to illuminate issues regarding business-organization-related COIs. At the same time, within the category of business-organization-related COIs we will devote relatively little attention to certain areas that already are the focus of much published analysis – particularly in the field of traditional corporate governance (e.g., issues concerning controlling shareholders and executive compensation).
We will also address a number of areas that are not purely in the realm of COI but are closely related – such as those concerning “moral hazard” and bias, with the latter topic including “behavioral C&E.”
Why. This blog was created because COIs, as a general matter, present the most common sort of C&E issues in business organizations. They can also be the most difficult to resolve, both because there is no overarching set of COI-related laws (unlike, for instance, competition law) and also because COI issues are frequently raised in an intensely personal circumstances. The blog is, among other things, aimed at helping organizations and individuals address specific COI challenges with information about the COI area generally, i.e., the practices and experiences of companies, the expectations of enforcement officials and the research findings and ideas of scholars. While our principal audience will be C&E professionals, we also hope that the information in the blog is useful to others – such as individual business persons who do not have a C&E officer to consult with when COI issues arise or business school teachers and students examining ethics issues, many of which tend to be COI based.
How. Initially, this web site is only a framework for capturing COI-related information. But, as the body of posts builds, readers will be able to search for ideas and information on a wide range of key COI areas, such as what are cognizable interests for COI purposes; matters regarding common types of COI issues (e.g., concerning gifts, entertainment, travel); when interests are deemed to be in conflict or give the appearance of doing so; various issues concerning both individual and organizational COIs; disclosures and waivers of COIs (including issues concerning content and timing); C&E program measures addressed to COIs: risk assessment; policies and procedures – includng the use of gift registries and other technological aids; training and communications (including for third parties); auditing, monitoring, certifications and other forms of checking; encouraging reports of suspected violations; and investigations and discipline. Readers will also be able to find information on COIs in different industries and professions, regarding laws relating to COIs and for various other topics.
Who. To start, I will write a majority of the posts. (Information about my background is available under the About tab but in brief I have spent more than twenty years providing advisory services to companies in COI- [and other C&E-] related matters; many other years as a white collar criminal defense lawyer, handling COI-related investigations and cases; and more than a decade teaching professional responsibility in NYU’s MBA program.) My wonderful law partner Rebecca Walker – author of Conflicts of Interest in Business and the Professions: Law and Compliance (Thomson Reuters) – will contribute posts, too. With time, I hope that others working in the field will submit writings as well. (If you’re interested in doing so please see our Guidelines for Guest Contributors and Comments Policy in the About section of the blog.)
When. We will try to publish every Monday, either every Tuesday or Wednesday and either Thursday or Friday. We hope you will visit the blog frequently, and will send in ideas that you’d like to see addressed in future posts.