ICANN is to bring in ethics experts to advise it on its conflicts of interest policy, addressing the ongoing controversy over its former chairman’s move to the domain industry.
The organization plans to “engage an external firm with expertise in advising on ethical issues”, according to the minutes of a September 15 meeting of its Board Governance Committee.
The consultants will be tasked with helping to “develop an ICANN Ethics Regime or set of Guidelines for the Board, the staff and the community.”
ICANN has been faced recently with calls to impose post-employment restrictions on board members and staff, in order to prevent a “revolving door” between it and the industry it essentially regulates.
This follows former chairman Peter Dengate Thrush’s move to new gTLD applicant Minds + Machines just a few weeks after voting to approve the new gTLD program.
Senator Ron Wyden and the Association of National Advertisers are among those making the call, and the US Department of Commerce, which oversees ICANN, appears to have heard it.
But as I reported earlier in the week, it may actually be illegal for ICANN, as a California corporation, to contractually ban employees from joining domain name companies after they quit.
However, the BGC has other ideas about how to strengthen ethics without imposing these potentially problematic employment restrictions.
It’s now talking about a ethics policy with “disclosure and abstention requirements” for directors “surrounding future interests or potential future interests”.
While the policy has yet to be written, one can imagine a scenario in which an ICANN director would be prevented from voting on a policy that would be likely to enrich them in a future job.
Cherine Chalaby, Bill Graham and Ray Plzak are the BGC members who will be leading the board discussions, which are expected to continue in Dakar later this month.
The ethics issue was first raised publicly by ICANN president Rod Beckstrom during his opening address at the Singapore meeting in June — before the new gTLD vote and before Dengate Thrush’s departure.