Conflicts of Interest and Accountability

We make no accusation of impropriety. We don't need to. We only state what occurred. Even if there had been wrongdoing, it would have long since been forgiven by the relevant statutes of limitation. It is the future that is important, not the past.

Conflict of interest

It's hard not to speculate about the potential conflict of interest inherent in this situation. Was it OK for the Managing Director of a commercial enterprise such as Dehn and Sohne, to be inventing devices by day while, by night, assuming such grand influence over international standards committees that they would specify mandatory use of those devices?

CIGRE's US National Committee employs an Ethics Program with a no-nonsense approach to such behavior: "The US National Committee's policy requires that all members avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest. An actual conflict is a personal interest that is likely to cause an independent observer to conclude that an individual conducting US National Committee business cannot make an unbiased decision, give...unbiased advice, exercise independent judgment, or be objective with respect to...technical results. An apparent conflict of interest occurs when personal interests are likely to cause an independent observer to question whether an individual conducting business on the US National Committee's behalf can do so fairly."

While recognizing that standards committees must often rely on the support of commercial enterprises to get their work done, it would seem that some kind of oversight or watchdog function was loudly missing in this case.


If you've ever read an IEC standard you'll immediately see a practice which can all but guarantee to promote lack of responsibility and lack of accountability on the part of standards writers. We refer to the fact that IEC standards never show who authored them.

Whoever writes a standard, their names had better be on it so they can be held accountable if a problem turns up somewhere down the road. And not only a name. To that must be added the person's affiliations and who's paying him to attend the meetings. Any concealed connections should make a standard writer liable to civil and/or criminal prosecution.

A more thorough treatment of the ethical aspects of this situation can be found here.

Ethics & IEC


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