Conflicts of Interest in the News (032412): Domain Names, Wall Street, Government and Tennis

Conflicts of interest and internet domain names: The “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) depends on its U.S. government contract to coordinate the unique addresses that tell computers where to find each other, without which the global Internet could not function. But this month the government warned that the non-profit body’s rules against conflicts of interest were not strong enough and only temporarily extended ICANN’s contract – which it has held since its formation in 1998 – instead of renewing it as many in the industry had expected…. The conflict of interest concerns arise from the fact that some past and present board members stand to benefit financially from the liberalisation of Web addresses through ties to organisations that make money from registering new domain names or consulting on the expansion.”

How Wall Street Deals With Conflicts: “Other professions deal with conflicts in a variety of ways. For federal government employees, there are extensive administrative regulations in place requiring disclosure of any actual or potential conflict. These rules are supplemented by a criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 208, making it a crime to be involved in any decision in which the person ‘has a financial interest,’ punishable by up to five years in prison for a ‘willful’ violation. For lawyers, the professional responsibility rules in every state prohibit representing a client if the lawyer has a conflicting obligation to another current or former client, or because of the attorney’s own personal interest in the transaction. A conflict does not prevent a lawyer from continuing the representation so long as there is full disclosure and written consent by the client. The conflict of interest rules are primarily enforced in two ways: a lawyer can be disqualified from continuing to represent a client, or the client can sue the lawyer for damages over a breach of a fiduciary duty… There are no similar options available to police conflicts involving investment bankers… One reason firms can operate despite actual or potential conflicts of interest is that they are not bound by the same fiduciary duty that a lawyer owes to a client or a government employee owes to the public.”

Cabinet minister broke conflict-of-interest rules: ethics watchdog.   “The ethics watchdog for the House of Commons said Thursday that  [Christian] Paradis] broke the rules when he gave a former Tory colleague preferential treatment. Paradis – then Public Works minister – directed his officials to set up special meetings with defeated Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer to discuss a private project.”

Conflicts of interest in the world of professional tennis. “I begin by saying that Mary Joe Fernandez is good people and, I think, someone of integrity. Despite her ties to IMG and despite the fact that her husband represents Roger Federer (and Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Anna Kournikova before that), I’ve never detected bias in her commentary. And let the record reflect: She does not work his matches, though she sometimes interviews him before and after them. All that said, you can’t be a commentator and sit with a player’s wife during the match.”




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