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Two ICANN directors update their conflicts profile after .africa complaint

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2012, 01:40:48 (UTC), Domain Registries

ICANN directors Mike Silber and Chris Disspain have updated their official statements of interest — used to identify potential conflicts on the board — after a complaint from a .africa applicant.

The new SOI statement more clearly specifies the relationship between South African ccTLD policymaker ZADNA — for which Silber acts as treasurer — and Uniforum, which has applied for the .africa gTLD.

(December 28 Update: Silber, in the comments below, states that the update to his SOI was in no way a response to the DCA complaint.)

It also gives a bit more information about Disspain’s employer, .au policymaker AuDA, and ARI Registry Services, which is providing the back-end registry services for dozens of new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Silber’s new SOI summary, with the relevant new text highlighted:

Member of the Management Committee and Treasurer of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) South Africa. He is also, a Director and Treasurer of the .za Domain Name Authority, the ccTLD administrator for .za. The .za Domain Name Authority has concluded an arms-length operating agreement with Uniforum t/a the .za Central Registry for Uniforum to operate the .za registry. Under the agreement, Uniforum will collect and pay transaction fees to .za Domain Name Authority. Uniforum is acting as the registry service provider for various new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Disspain’s, again with my emphasis:

Director and CEO of .au Domain Administration Limited, the .au ccTLD manager; .au has sponsorship agreement with ICANN under which .au pays ICANN a yearly amount based on the amount of names under management. Former Officer of ICANN, Paul Levins, is a Director of .au Domain Administration Limited. .au Domain Administration Limited licenses AusRegistry Pty Ltd to run the registry for the second level names in .au. Under the Registry License agreement, AusRegistry pays fees to auDA; companies affiliated with AusRegistry are affiliated with new gTLD applications.

AusRegistry is technically ARI’s parent, but they share many of the same senior executives.

The updated statement comes shortly after a complaint filed with ICANN’s Ombudsman by .africa applicant DotConnectAfrica about Silber and Disspain’s alleged conflicts of interest over the gTLD.

While the indirect connection between Silber and DCA’s rival .africa applicant Uniforum is clear, it was not obvious to Ombudsman Chris LaHatte what Disspain’s conflict was supposed to be.

LaHatte found no actions that constituted conflicts of interest from either director, but he appeared to nudge the board to providing fuller disclosure, which is what seems to have happened here.

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Comments (5)

  1. Yassin Mshana says:

    Someone asked about .world – how would that be contested (silly thought? No.)

  2. Mike Silber says:

    Kevin

    I think you are being disingenuous. This was an update as part of ICANN’s regular COI updates, nothing specific done by Chris or myself due to the complaint.

    I would think you would be more accurate and confirm that the entire Board and senior staff updated their COI statements and change the factually incorrect headline!

    Mike

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Mike,

      There was certainly no attempt to be disingenuous. Had any of the other updated SOIs been of interest I would have reported those too.

      I’d have a hard time believing that the changes to the two updates in question were not influenced by the complaints, even if there wasn’t necessarily a causal link between the timing of the SOI update and the complaint.

      It was public knowledge in February that Uniforum was applying for .africa, yet it wasn’t in your March SOI.

      It’s been public knowledge for even longer that ARI was aggressively pursuing the back-end market, yet Chris did not disclose this fact in any of his previous SOIs.

      I don’t think it’s disingenuous to conclude that you both decided to bolster transparency by elaborating on your respective employers’ relationships, and that community feedback may have helped you make those decisions.

      Cheers,

      Kevin

      • Mike Silber says:

        Kevin

        At first, the Board and senior staff update their CoI statements on an annual basis. You should know that! Your article makes no mention of the fact that ALL Board and senior staff have updated their CoI statements.

        Secondly, these CoI updates follow the announcement of the applications and applicants. So it is only natural that there will be more detail, now that applicants and their applicants are known.

        Lastly, in my case, the operating agreement between Uniforum SA and the .ZA Domain name Authority was only concluded in November 2012, to have put speculative statements in a formal CoI statement based on what is possible, or what is being negotiated but not yet concluded, would have been speculative and inaccurate.

        Indeed, community feedback helped. However that is feedback from other events such as the behaviour of former Board members and has NOTHING to do with a spurious claim by a particular applicant. I would be happy to provide correspondence that indicates that this update was initiated months before the DCA allegations surfaced.

        Mike

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