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IESG Conflict of Interest Policy

In carrying out their IESG roles, Covered Individuals (see “1. Definitions”) are expected to act in the best interest of the IETF community. Occasionally, the duties of this role may be — or may appear to be — incompatible or in conflict with a Covered Individual’s personal interests, including interests of their family members (see “1. Definitions”), or the interests of an organization of which the Covered Individual is an employee, director, owner, or otherwise has a business or other current or future financial interest.

The purpose of this policy is to prevent Covered Individuals from using their IESG roles or the IESG’s resources or decisions to prioritize their own personal interests or the interests of their related third parties over the best interest of the IETF community.

Negative effects of conflicts of interest are also expected to be mitigated by factors outside of this policy. For example, the IETF Nominating Committee (NomCom) is expected to provide the IESG with a diverse set of members, so as to balance the different priorities and opinions of individual members. Also, the appeals process is available to the community in case of disputes.

1. Definitions

A “Covered Individual” is a NomCom-selected or ex-officio IESG member. Liaisons to the IESG from other bodies are expected to follow this policy as well.

For the purpose of this policy, “works closely with” refers to someone working in the same team or project, or a direct manager, direct report, or employee of the Covered Individual.

For the purpose of this policy, “family member” refers to a spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, parent, stepchild, step-parent, and mother-, father-, son-, daughter-, brother-, or sister-in-law, and any other person living in the same household, except tenants and household employees.

2. Topics Requiring CoI Consideration

The IESG does not directly deal with matters relating to contracts or finance. The IESG’s technical decisions and outputs, however, have the potential to impact both work elsewhere in the IETF or businesses that employ or develop Internet technology. The IESG does also have a role in personnel decisions, and its decisions and outputs have the potential to indirectly affect contracts within the IETF system.

IESG members should not be considered to have conflicts of interest simply because their employers, for example, are involved in IETF activity: that clearly is part of the normal IETF and IESG work. At the same time, perceptions are important, and IESG members need to recognize that the community could take a more critical view of situations that on their surface seem non-conflicted.

Activity on the IESG involves discussion and decisions regarding technical and procedural matters, mainly related to IETF activities. It is often the case that Covered Individuals or related third parties will have some (frequently non-financial) stake in the outcome of discussions or decisions that relate to technical matters. Covered Individuals should exercise judgment regarding disclosure related to technical matters, erring on the side of transparency.

In cases where a clear conflict of interest exists, an Area Director should normally recuse and leave actions and decisions to other AD(s). This is done, for example, when an AD is an author on a document the IESG is considering for approval. It is not expected that recusal related to technical matters will be common.

This policy primarily focuses on disclosure to mitigate actual or perceived conflicts of interest. Topics where disclosure of potential conflicts may be required include, but are not limited to:

  • Management of the standards process, including judgment of consensus, approval of Internet-Drafts for publication, and appointment of designated experts
  • Management of working groups and directorates, including appointment of chairs, review of working group documents, and chartering of new groups
  • Approval of birds-of-a-feather sessions (BoFs)
  • Appeals
  • Responding to liaison statements from other bodies
  • Confirmations of candidates selected by other bodies
  • Appointments to other bodies

3. Example Sources of Conflicts

Specific examples of circumstances that might cause conflicts of interest, and therefore typically require disclosure, include, but are not limited to, the following situations:

  • A personnel decision relates to the Covered Individual or a family member, or a colleague that the Covered Individual or a family member works closely with.
  • A decision or output from the IESG may impact a contract that the IETF enters into with a party, and that party relates to the Covered Individual or a family member, or a colleague that the Covered Individual or a family member works closely with.
  • The success of a Covered Individual’s business depends significantly on the outcome of an IESG discussion or decision
  • An AD sponsors an individual submission that is authored by an employee of the same organization the AD works for, or by one of the AD’s family members.
  • An AD is appointing a working group chair who is a colleague from the AD’s organization.
  • A situation or controversy arises in which many of those involved – say, the AD, a working group chair, and a document author – are from the same organization.
4. Disclosure Procedure

Each Covered Individual must publicly disclose their main employment, sponsorship, consulting customers, other relevant sources of income, and other likely sources of conflicts of interest when entering the IESG or whenever there are updates. If relevant information cannot be disclosed publicly due to confidentiality agreements or other reasonable factors, a Covered Individual must explain the relevant facts and circumstances in a general way (without revealing confidential information).

Aside from public disclosures related to general employment and relevant income sources, which are required above, any other potential conflicts of interest for a Covered Individual must be disclosed internally to the IESG. Covered Individuals must promptly disclose when they become aware that a topic discussed by the IESG or a decision to be made by the Covered Individual could be perceived as an additional conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest by a reasonable person who is aware of the Covered Individual’s situation. If a Covered Individual cannot disclose a conflict or potential conflict due to confidentiality restrictions, they must recuse themselves from discussion and decision-making on the relevant topic.

5. Violations of this Policy

If the IESG is alerted that a Covered Individual has failed to disclose a potential conflict of interest, it must inform the Covered Individual and allow the Covered Individual an opportunity to explain the alleged failure to disclose. If the IESG decides that the Covered Individual has in fact failed to appropriately disclose a possible conflict of interest in accordance with this policy, the IESG will notify the broader IETF community of this determination.