Conflict of interest refers to a situation in which an individual or organization has competing interests or loyalties that may interfere with their ability to act in an impartial and objective manner. Conflicts of interest can arise in many contexts, including in business, politics, and public administration.
Actual conflicts of interest occur when an individual or organization is currently engaged in an activity that creates a conflict of interest, such as having a financial interest in a company that they are regulating.
Potential conflicts of interest, on the other hand, refer to situations where an individual or organization has the potential to be influenced by competing interests or loyalties, even if they have not yet engaged in any activity that creates a conflict of interest.
Here are some examples that illustrate the difference between actual and potential conflicts of interest:
Actual conflict of interest:
- A public official who owns shares in a company that they are responsible for regulating.
- A lawyer who represents both the plaintiff and defendant in the same case.
Potential conflict of interest:
- A journalist who has close personal ties with a politician they are reporting on, even if they have not yet written any articles about that politician.
- A researcher who receives funding from a company whose products they are studying, even if they have not yet published any results.
In summary, conflicts of interest can be either actual or potential, and can arise in a variety of contexts. It is important for individuals and organizations to be aware of potential conflicts of interest and take steps to mitigate them in order to maintain impartiality and objectivity.