Arnold Williams (notebuyer) wrote,
Arnold Williams

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The Imposition of Standards

I'm getting tired of it.

Morning after morning, I'm picking up a paper and reading about "conflicts of interest" leading to charges against a business or its officers.

That should not be the standard. Everyone has conflicts of interest except in certain, very artificial, situations, like court cases. Even there, the reality of conflicts of interest can sometimes stop cases. One situation I'm familiar with dealt with a case in which attorneys fees could have been ordered: it was a suit by an employee against his employer. The suit was going against the employee (and had nearly drained the pocketbook of the employee's attorney), when it was settled. After the settlement, the attorney for the defendant made noises about seeking attorney's fees. He was told, "Not only do I not care what you want to threaten, I know that you have not spoken to your clients about why this case was settled, and why your clients don't want this employee speaking in public. After you have, I will accept your apology for your suggestion."

What had happened? Well, the employee knew how his employers had been avoiding tax payments, and that would have come out in the trial. The employers wanted no discussion of it, since they wanted to keep the money: so both sides agreed to leave the trial. The employee was paid a sizable "severance bonus".

Were the two sides opposed to each other without a conflict of interest? No, because what they had in common settled the suit. Were the attorneys without a conflict of interest? Yes, because they operated within an artificial setting created by the court.

Business has many, many conflicts of interest. It is part of reality. That is not going to be changed by a prosecutor who gets up in the morning, looks himself in the mirror, and says, "Good morning, Senator." It doesn't operate by conflicts of interest rules. It does not avoid the appearance of impropriety. When someone steps over the line and is improperly influenced, that person is fired: or, if he's the business owner, his employees gossip to enough customers to sink the business. Problem solved.

It doesn't, and won't ever, work according to the other model, no matter how much ignorant lawyers want it to.

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