Definitions Merriam Webster: Conflict of Interest “A conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.” And, ISKCON “Conflict of Interest” will be broadly defined in ISKCON as the potential for any personal benefit – direct or indirect – that could be gained by dint of one's position as an ISKCON officer, authority, or member, the act of which places ISKCON's concerns second to one’s own.
Wikipedia: A conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other. A conflict of interest can only exist if a person or testimony is entrusted with some impartiality; a modicum of trust is necessary to create it. The presence of a conflict of interest is independent from the execution of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. Examples of some occupations where a conflict of interest is most likely to be encountered or discovered include: policeman, lawyer, judge, insurance adjuster, politician, engineer, executive, religious or spiritual leader, director of a corporation, medical research scientist, physician, writer, and editor.individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.corruption occurs.policeman, lawyer, judge, insurance adjuster, politician, engineer, executive, religious or spiritual leader, director of a corporation, medical research scientist, physician, writer, and editor.
Organizational conflict of interest An organizational conflict of interest (OCI) may exist in the same way as described above, in the realm of the private sector providing services to the Government, where a corporation provides two types of services to the Government that have conflicting interest or appear objectionable (ie: manufacturing parts and then participating on a selection committee comparing parts manufacturers). Corporations may develop simple or complex systems to mitigate the risk or perceived risk of a conflict of interest. These risks are typically evaluated by a governmental office (for example, in a US Government RFP) to determine whether the risk poses a substantial advantage to the private organization over the competition or will decrease the overall competitiveness in the bidding process. Other organizations utilize an Ethics Committee for this purpose.
Interests Financial Institutional – Administrative and Spiritual management positions Personal – in relation to services rendered. Doctrine in terms of spiritual position
Examples of potential COIs in ISKCON Financial : 1.Spiritual Sky or related businesses, i.e. restaurants, prasada distribution, etc. 2.Food for Life and Temple Food distribution 3.BBT – book distribution collections – Ex. Book distribution jurisdictional disputes 4.Temple – preacher fundraising – Jurisdictional Conflict(s)
Further Examples: Institutional – Administrative and Spiritual management positions 1.Multiple Posts – Simultaneous positions wherein one position should offer checks and balances for the other – Guru, GBC, TP, Restaurant Manager, BBT Trustee, in any combination. 2.Conflicts between different project interests within ISKCON. (BI) 3.In the judicial sphere wherein a management position precludes participation in judicial proceedings. (See ISKCON Law, ODR Section) 4.Accepting something in return for or giving something to further one’s personal agenda.
Personal – in relation to services rendered. Nepotism – Favoritism in relation to relatives, either spiritual or material – i.e., giving some relative priority to occupy any position related to management. When land can be purchased a relative is favored over others. This can apply also to Godbrothers/sisters or disciples. Lack of transparency in delegation of services based on personal critique not on qualifications. When one service overlaps another and the interests of the both conflict. i.e., – the temple restaurant’s bhoga and the deity’s bhoga.
Doctrine in terms of spiritual position Wherein a Conflict of Interest may exist in relation to a philosophical position which sometimes conflicts with another equally acceptable position. An example of this might be Srila Prabhupada’s preaching at one moment about a point which could change due to time, place, and circumstances. Ex. Ritvikism.
Ways to mitigate conflicts of interests Removal – (Divestiture) The best way to handle conflicts of interests is to avoid them entirely. For example, if someone who uses his office for several purposes, outside it’s designated functions, which might conflict with that of ISKCON, or any aforementioned type of COI, the best way to deal with this would be to identify and remove the conflict. Example: JPS Office – Biodiscs, Ponzi Scheme
Disclosure Disclosure Commonly, politicians and high-ranking government officials are required to disclose financial information – assets like bank accounts, stocks, loans, and/or other positions held, typically annually. The current COI proposal would require disclosure by ISKCON officials of any actual or potential COIs. In some instances (countries), the failure to provide full disclosure in relation to a nonprofit organization or Co is a crime.
Recusal Those with a conflict of interest are expected to recuse themselves from (abstain from) decisions where such a conflict exists. The imperative for recusal varies depending on the circumstance and profession, either as common sense ethics, codified ethics, or by statute. For example, if the governing board of a temple is considering hiring a construction firm for some task, and one firm being considered has, as a partner, a close relative of one of the board's members, then that board member should not vote on which firm is to be selected. In fact, to minimize any conflict, the board member should not participate in any way in the decision, including discussions. For example, if the governing board of a temple is considering hiring a construction firm for some task, and one firm being considered has, as a partner, a close relative of one of the board's members, then that board member should not vote on which firm is to be selected. In fact, to minimize any conflict, the board member should not participate in any way in the decision, including discussions.
Recusal in judicial matters Judges are supposed to recuse themselves from cases when personal conflicts of interest may arise. For example, if an ODR panelist (judge) has participated in a case previously in some other judicial role or has some personal relationship with any of the parties involved, he/she should not be allowed to try that case. Recusal is also expected when one of the authorities deciding a case might be a close personal friend, or when the outcome of the case might affect the authority or judge directly, such as whether a carmaker is obliged to recall a model a judge drives. This is required by law under continental civil law systems and by the Rome Statute, organic law of the International Criminal Court.
Third-party evaluations Third-party evaluations can be used as proof that transactions were, in fact, fair (“arm’s length”). For example, this might be used by ISKCON in land or construction transactions to show the legitimacy of the transaction for the future. Some organizations require 3 quotes from independent contractors or real estate companies to validate their transactions.
Codes of ethics Generally, codes of ethics forbid conflicts of interest. Codes of ethics help minimize problems with conflicts of interests because they spell out the extent to which such conflicts should be avoided, and what the parties should do when conflicts are permitted by the code (disclosure, rucusal, etc.). Thus officials can’t claim that they were unaware their improper behavior was unethical. As importantly, the threat of disciplinary action (sanctions, etc.) helps minimize unacceptable conflicts or improper acts when a conflict is unavoidable. As a code of ethics cannot cover all situations, some organizations establish ethics committees to deal with unique situations.
Current Proposal for GBC D25 – Conflict of Interest Policy Proposal Whereas, when devotees are placed in positions of trust within ISKCON, with decision-making authority, they have an obligation to always make such decisions with full consideration of the best interests of the Society. In the course of fulfilling such duties they may find themselves in a circumstance, called a conflict of interest (COI), when they are called upon to make a decision on behalf of ISKCON, but that decision has a potential to directly or indirectly bring personal benefit to them (or their family & friends). Whereas,should the devotee proceed to make such a decision; there is every chance that it will result in some sort of loss for ISKCON. It may be a financial loss, it may spoil the reputation of the Society, or it may cause a loss of morale amongst the devotees. Whereas, it is incumbent upon the society to frame rules governing Ethics, Standards and Compliance in order to avoid the circumstances under which such losses may occur. Therefore it is resolved that: The following is accepted as the Conflict of Interest policy for ISKCON: Conflict of Interest "Conflict of Interest" will be defined in ISKCON as the potential for any personal benefit-direct or indirect- that could be gained by dint of one's being in a position of trust in ISKCON.The “interests” will adhere to those delineated in ISKCON Law, ISKCON’s Constitution, all pertinent GBC position papers, common sense (self-evident interests)and any ISKCON Oaths (such as the ISKCON Oath of Allegiance). These potential conflicts of interest may include, but are not limited to: 1. Financial-Those in a position of trust within ISKCON may derive personal financial benefit based upon, or influenced by, one's position in ISKCON. 2. Manpower-Those in a position of trust within ISKCON may derive personal benefit by engaging ISKCON members in activities that benefit themselves rather than ISKCON. 3. Multiple positions-Those in a position of trust within ISKCON may hold a number of positions in ISKCON which may result in compromised accountability and transparency. 4. Decision-making - compromised decision-making and manipulating rules that could benefit those in a position of trust or those close to him/her rather than benefiting the interests of ISKCON. 5. Information - Sharing information that would benefit any individual and be in conflict with the best interests of ISKCON. (e.g. insider information, etc.) 6. Nepotism - Family interests, in which a spouse, child, other close relatives, disciples or Godbrothers, are favored for service positions; or where goods or services are purchased from such a relative or a firm controlled by a relative (spiritual or material), regardless of the benefit, or loss, to ISKCON. All considerations concerning the service or position of family members/relatives should be decided by the appropriate authorities and one should recuse himself from such decision- making process when there is a potential Conflict of Interest.
It is advised that all persons in positions of trust in ISKCON disclose actual or potential COI’s, to the appropriate authority.They (the appropriate authority) will determine whether the existence of the COI is detrimental or not to the interests of ISKCON. In consultation with the appropriate authority suitable actions can be taken to mitigate the COI. Suggested ways of mitigation can be, but are not limited to: Recusal, disclosure, third party evaluation,or divestiture (removal of the COI). They are defined as follows: Recusal Those persons, who are in a position to make judgments and/or decisions wherein there exists a conflict of interest, should recuse themselves (refrain-abstain) from the position of judgment and/or decision-making and defer that responsibility to their immediate higher ISKCON authority. Disclosure The disclosure by any ISKCON authority of potential COIs to their Zonal Secretary (or in the case of ZSs and GBCs to the GBC ED). The authority can request the activity in question to be authorized by the ZS who must weigh fiscal and ethical considerations in deciding whether to grant exception. Such exceptions must be reported to the GBC's Executive Director for final approval or reversal of decision. Third Party Evaluation The interested ISKCON authority may request the IDRO (The ISKCON Dispute Resolution Office), or ISKCON Resolve to independently evaluate whether there exists a COI and ways that it might be mitigated. Divestiture Divestiture is basically the elimination of the interest in conflict, or one’s connection to it.
Divestiture Divestiture is basically the elimination of the interest in conflict, or one’s connection to it. Additionally, ZSs should encourage an atmosphere in their jurisdiction wherein COI’s will be identified and dealt with. If any ISKCON authority has reasonable cause to believe that a person in a position of trust, serving within their area of responsibility, has failed to disclose actual, or potential, conflicts of interest; that authority shall inform the person of the basis for such belief and afford the person an opportunity to explain the alleged failure to disclose. If, after hearing the person’s response and having made further investigation, the ISKCON authority determines the person has failed to disclose an actual or possible conflict of interest, he shall suggest ways to mitigate said COI (as suggested above). EXPLANATION: (1) What prompts you to submit this proposal? The COI/Ethics effort has been an ongoing SPT initiative, commissioned by the GBC. (2) Why this proposal is important for the success of ISKCON? All serious religious, corporate, and government institutions have COI/Ethics related policies in place. ISKCON should not be an exception. (3) What would be the implications of implementing this proposal? ISKCON would avoid potential COIs which could present impediments to our financial and institutional progress. It is a basic tenet of a transparent management structure. Being part of ISKCON law, it would not imply any cost except in terms of educational training.