Conflicts of Interest – The Family Series

Valerie Hartley

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For want of a better description, a conflict of interest could best be described as a situation occurring when an individual or organisation is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation.  Okay….

More generally, a conflict of interest may be defined as any situation in which an individual or organisation, private or governmental, is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit.  Okay…….again………

As a standing agenda item which should always feature early in the governance section of the trustee meeting agenda, conflicts of interest is in itself a minefield.  There are varying types of conflicts of interest with a list that could easily become endless, yet not solely limited to the world of occupational pension schemes.

Within Spence, as part of our human resource induction and overall conflicts of interest process and procedure, we must best consider the situation and possible impact where the interests of one position within the organisation could potentially contradict another and more-so, how we best manage this.  Family interests where a spouse, child, or other close relative who is employed or applies for employment within Spence is a prime example.

We then have to consider ways to mitigate conflicts of interests should they arise. One could argue that the best way to handle conflicts of interests is to avoid them entirely, with adequate disclosure as a closely followed second where certain professionals are required either by rules related to their professional organisation, or by statute, to disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest.  In some instances, failure to provide full disclosure could potentially be a crime.

Over and above conflicts of interest in relation to occupational pension schemes, Spence have implemented robust procedures in handling potential conflicts of interest where members of staff are or have been connected in some way or another to a current appointment. This could be where staff members previously worked for a scheme where Spence have been recently appointed to a scenario where sibling A and Sibling B are potentially conflicted in areas of our business where specific types of advice are being provided.

Generally, conflicts of interests should where possible be eliminated.  This does not apply to those family members mentioned earlier!  The specifics can however be rather controversial and once again, this is by no means in reference to earlier.  Should Psychiatrists be allowed to have extra-professional relations with patients is merely one example?  Codes of ethics help to minimise problems with conflicts of interests because they can describe the extent to which such conflicts should be avoided, and what the parties should do where such conflicts are permitted by a code of ethics, for example, disclosure as mentioned earlier.  I shall leave you with this thought…………..