Another conflicted ICANN director?

Kevin Murphy, March 20, 2012, 15:43:03 (UTC), Domain Policy

Yet another member of ICANN’s board of directors may have a conflict of interest relating to the new generic top-level domains program, it has emerged.

As well as its official open meeting last Friday, the board held three off-the-books meetings during ICANN 44 last week, the outcomes of which have just been published.

Last Wednesday, March 14, the board met in private and passed this resolution:

Resolved (2012.03.14.01), the Subcommittee of the Board Governance Committee on Ethics and Conflicts is requested to review its determination of a perceived, potential or actual conflict of interest in relation to one of the Directors to determine if the mitigation factors identified remain correct as a result of new information learned at the meeting.

In other words, a director currently identified as non-conflicted in relation to the gTLD program may in fact be conflicted as ICANN defines it, based on newly acquired information.

The resolution does not state which director it refers to.

If I had to speculate — and funnily enough I feel compelled to do so — I’d say it’s Judith Vasquez.

Vasquez’s latest statement of interest, also published last week, states that she has “indicated that she may be involved with a new gTLD application”.

This potential conflict was first identified by ICANN in October, shortly before she joined the board.

However, Vasquez discussed and voted on new gTLD-related resolutions at ICANN board meetings held in February and December.

Other directors whose employers are thinking about applying for new gTLDs – such as IBM’s Thomas Narten – have recused themselves from related discussions.

It’s not clear why Vasquez has not recused herself.

In any event, last week’s resolution could refer to another director whose SOI does not currently state a potential conflict.

Ethics at ICANN have been on ICANN’s agenda since the Singapore meeting last June – former chair Peter Dengate Thrush’s move to Minds + Machines saw to that.

The issue was raised again by CEO Rod Beckstrom during his Costa Rica opening address last Monday, in which he talked about a “tangle of conflicting agendas” on the board.

Such is the degree of concern that ICANN’s Board Governance Committee recently discussed setting up a new committee, comprising the non-conflicted directors, to hold delegated authority over all matters related to the new gTLD program.

ICANN staff were directed to create a formal proposal for such a committee for consideration in Costa Rica last week, but that does not appear to have happened.

While seven of ICANN’s 21 directors recused themselves from a February vote due to new gTLD program conflicts, only four of those were among the 16 voting directors.

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Comments (4)

  1. Sergio Leone says:

    What about the Trademark Clearinghouse? What if the provider also applies for a TLD? Conflict?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I think we’re going to find out quite shortly.

      If what I’ve heard about the identity of the successful TMCH provider is correct, there will definitely be a clash.

  2. Kristina says:

    I asked Kurt Pritz during the IPC meeting on Constituency Day whether the Clearinghouse provider would be excluded, on conflict grounds, from participating in any new gTLD application. He said no because it would not be possible to engage a highly qualified provider if that condition were imposed.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Which I think is a fair point.

      But that rationale didn’t stop registrars kicking up a stink when Com Laude was picked to do the .xxx sunrise.

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