Guidelines for disclosure of conflict of interest

As we are often the only person aware of a situation that could result in actual or perceived conflict of interest, we have a personal responsibility to disclose it to CERN as soon as we become aware of it and, in particular, when we are called upon to advise on, to decide on or to control matters in which we might have a conflict of interest. 

The focus of these guidelines is the proactive management of situations that could result in an actual or perceived conflict of interest. 

Disclosure of conflicts of interest allows the Organization to react promptly and appropriately when the impartiality and objectivity of CERN contributors, in the performance of our functions for CERN or in the fulfilment of our contractual obligations towards the Organization, might be influenced or compromised by our private interests or any other professional obligations or relationships.

Private interest” means any benefit, liability or relationship, financial or otherwise, of the CERN contributors, their family or friends, or any individual or organization with which the CERN contributors are directly or indirectly connected.

In addition, appropriate disclosure protects CERN contributors, demonstrates their commitment to integrity and reinforces the credibility of the Organization.

Situation to be disclose 

We, as CERN contributors, are required to disclose any private interest or competing professional obligation or relationship that could impair or appear to impair our impartiality and objectivity in the performance of our functions for CERN or in the fulfilment of our contractual obligations towards the Organization. 

Listed below are some scenarios in which a conflict of interest requiring disclosure could arise: 

  • We are invited to take part in a recruitment board and one of the applicants is a member of our spouse’s family. 
  • We are involved in the negotiation of a contract between CERN and a company owned by a personal friend. 
  • We are asked to check invoices from a contractor that employs our child or our spouse.
  • We are asked to approve orders placed with a local supplier that offers a very good level of service, but also employs our spouse (or another member of our family) as a sales representative. 
  • We are asked for our views about a partnership between CERN and an institute for which we conduct academic activities. 

Timing of the disclosure 

We, as CERN contributors, should disclose situations that could give rise to conflict of interest, or the perception thereof, at the earliest possible opportunity.

Late disclosure could disrupt CERN's operations, hamper an appropriate response from the Organization and/or ultimately compromise the credibility of the process concerned as well as that of the CERN contributor. 

Recipient of the disclosure 

Disclosure should be made to the relevant line manager at CERN, in accordance with the Conflict of Interest Policy.

If the process concerned is collective, e.g., a board or committee, we should also notify the other participants in the process of the situation. In the event of doubt, or of confidential situations, the level of detail required at this stage should be agreed with the CERN officer in charge of the process concerned. 

Format of the disclosure 

The format of the disclosure will depend on the circumstances.

CERN contributors may be requested to complete a specific declarations form in order to comply with procedures decided by the Organization. In some processes, e.g., recruitment exercises, the CERN officer in charge of the process may routinely ask CERN contributors about the existence of a possible conflict of interest.

Note that our duty to disclose a conflict of interest exists independent of whether a specific declaration form is provided or an inquiry is made.

In other scenarios, an oral disclosure may suffice. However, it is highly recommended that the disclosure be recorded in writing, e.g. by email or in meeting minutes, as this will provide evidence for future reference that the required and appropriate disclosure has been made in a timely fashion. This is in the interests of the CERN contributor making the disclosure, as well as those of the Organization. 

Protection of the information disclosed 

The Organization must take the necessary measures to maintain records of disclosures made as well as to safeguard the confidentiality of any private information disclosed in respect of the Conflict of Interest Policy. Recipients of disclosures shall respect confidentiality, and communicate information contained in such disclosures on a strictly “need to know” basis.

Effect of the disclosure 

Disclosure does not necessarily mean that we are not eligible to participate in the process in question.

As set out in the Conflict of Interest Policy, “The Organization shall react promptly and appropriately to disclosures of conflicts of interest, to ensure, inter alia, that the impartiality and objectivity of the CERN contributor is not influenced or compromised or perceived as such. It shall take the necessary measures to maintain the confidentiality of any private information disclosed.” 

Depending on the nature of both the process and the situation, and after discussion with the CERN officer in charge of the process and/or the relevant line manager at CERN, a variety of outcomes might be agreed upon.

Possible strategies could include: 

• Abstaining from all or certain aspects of a discussion, or process

• Participating in the discussion but not the decision-making aspect

• Participating only in an anonymised process (e.g., marking of recruitment tests)

• Referring matters to other colleagues or the line management

• Refraining from taking part in decisions regarding financial or investment matters or policies

• Declining to participate in internal or external bodies

• Deciding not to supervise or provide references for certain individuals

It is strongly recommended that a written record be maintained of any such strategy agreed upon as well as of the measures taken.

In in doubt

If you are unsure about any aspects of these guidelines, it is your responsibility to seek clarification and/or advice from your CERN line manager, the Human Resources department or the Internal Audit.

Reference documents

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