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Friday, May 27, 2011

Paper Tigers: Firewalls Forestalling Institutional Conflicts of Interest

Structural, or institutional, conflicts of interest are of great significance in applied ethics, even though they often play second fiddle to the conflicts centered on a person’s particular interests. An organizational or institutional conflict of interest, whether within one organization or in the arrangements between organizations, is not any less unethical than a personal conflict of interest.  Therefore, when we take the claims of vested organizational interests that their internal firewalls are more than just paper tigers at face value, our foolhardiness can really be at our detriment. I present a few cases to suggest that “firewalls” in an organization to prevent it from a conflict of interest are, in general, insufficient and thus ought not be relied on. Instead, the public (or government regulatory agencies) should insist that one of the two interests in an institutional conflict of interest be given up.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.