For most organizations, managing conflicts of interest (COI’s) is systematized through the use of established protocols. A combination of new employee orientation and ongoing refresher training ensures the potential harm of undisclosed COI’s is clearly understood. Disclosure forms are made readily available, and renewal of those forms is closely monitored to ensure any compliance audit is able to verify a proactive stance on this issue. Unfortunately, real-time commerce doesn’t always comply with pre-determined renewal cycles, which means ad hoc COI’s can occur at any time. Internal promotions can place an employee in a position of potential impropriety that hadn’t been previously identified. Changes in existing project scopes or new short-term projects can create COI’s that weren’t anticipated. Infrequent refresher training can lead to employees forgetting COI’s exist when there is a potential for impropriety, irrespective of whether any action is ever taken.
Large organizations, especially those in the academic, clinical and pharmaceutical sectors, will create and manage a protocol for ad hoc committees to address and review such COI’s as they arise, but for most companies, such an arrangement exceeds their resource availability. In this context, ad hoc COI’s can be managed in three simple steps:
By definition, ad hoc COI’s occur as a result of a specific event – promotion, new project, regulatory change – and one of the most important elements of effective COI control is ensuring the to-do list for event includes a process check for potential COI’s. Keeping the topic front-of-mind through regular communication in emails, corporate newsletters, intranet posts, etc., can ensure every employee feels comfortable in checking for potential impropriety as a matter of protocol, whether or not a COI actually exists.
New hire orientation sessions and refresher training that takes place in advance of disclosure renewal cycles represent a solid foundation, but for ad hoc COI’s to be effectively managed, every department should be assessed for their respective potential for the occurrence of ad hoc scenarios so extra training can be scheduled on a specific topic.
Keeping an Excel spreadsheet of disclosure forms and scheduling renewal cycles on your corporate calendar are no longer considered to be proactive compliance. Having a completed disclosure form on file is only the beginning. All disclosures must be reviewed, clarified where appropriate, and formally approved before being placed in the renewal cycle. The responsible department (HR/Compliance) can then run regular reports to monitor status of all disclosed COI’s.