Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities

Handbook of Operating Procedures 5-2011

Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities

University of Texas SealEffective June 01, 2021
Executive Sponsor: Executive Vice President and ProvostPolicy Owner: Executive Vice President and Provost, Vice President for Legal Affairs, and Associate Vice President for Human Resources
I. Policy Statement 

The mission of The University of Texas at Austin (“University”) is to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service. The University contributes to the advancement of society through research, creative activity, scholarly inquiry, and the development and dissemination of new knowledge, including the commercialization of University discoveries.

 

It is the policy of the University to provide a transparent system of disclosure, approval, and documentation of its employees’ activities outside of the University which might otherwise raise concerns about conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment. Undisclosed and unmanaged conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment are prohibited. This policy serves to ensure compliance with state ethics laws and The University of Texas System (“UT System”) Regents’ Rules and Regulations and is intended to provide the framework for rules and procedures to clearly delineate permissible outside activities. To the extent this policy conflicts with any other policy in the University's Handbook of Operating Procedures ("HOP"), this policy controls.

II. Reason for Policy 

To provide the institutional framework to protect the credibility and reputation of the University and its faculty and staff when those employees are engaged in outside activities through the management of real or perceived conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. Members of the University community have an obligation to address both the substance and the appearance of conflicts of interest and commitment, and if they arise, to disclose them to the appropriate University representative and manage the conflict appropriately.

 

The University community should be guided by the following principles in the conduct of University responsibilities.

 

  • Societal trust in the University’s scholarly endeavors depends on the independence, integrity, and transparency of all members of the University community
  • Employees have a primary commitment to the University. 
  • The University encourages open engagement and collaboration with outside entities to further its mission.  Such collaborative pursuits must be conducted ethically and objectively.
  • The University is committed to an environment that is free from conflicts of interest to protect the trust the public places in the University.
  • All members of the University community must be free to conduct inquiry free from bias.
III. Scope & Audience 

This policy applies to any employee of the University, including any person who holds a University faculty appointment, regardless of compensation or length of appointment.

 

*Note:  Units of the University may have additional policies and disclosures for their employees (e.g. Dell Medical School, Athletics, and Office of the Vice President for Research). 

IV. Definitions (specific to this policy) 
Business Entity:

An entity recognized by law through which business is conducted, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, firm, corporation, holding company, joint stock company, receivership, or trust. 

Compensation:

Any form of benefit including but not limited to salary, retainer, honoraria, intellectual property rights or royalties, or promised, deferred, or contingent interest. It also includes sponsored travel or reimbursement. 

Conflict of Commitment:

When (1) the time or effort that a University employee devotes to an outside activity directly or significantly interferes with the employee’s fulfillment of University responsibilities, or (2) the employee uses state property without authority in connection with the employee’s outside employment, board service, or other activity. 

Conflict of Interest:

A significant outside interest of a University employee or one of the employee’s immediate family members that could directly or significantly affect the employee’s performance of institutional responsibilities. The proper discharge of University responsibilities could be directly or significantly affected if the employment, service, activity, or interest:

 

  1.  might tend to influence the way the employee performs University responsibilities, or the employee knows or should know the interest is or has been offered with the intent to influence the employee’s conduct or decisions; 
  2. could reasonably be expected to impair the employee’s judgment in performing University responsibilities; or 
  3. might require or induce the employee to disclose confidential or proprietary information acquired through the performance of University responsibilities.
Employee:

Any employee of the University, including any person who holds a University faculty appointment, regardless of compensation or length of appointment.

Equity:

Stock, stock options, warrants, or other ownership interest.

Executive Officer:

Includes, but is not limited to, a chancellor or president, all individuals who report directly to the University president (other than administrative support positions), and any employee who exercises broad and significant discretion over key institutional or UT System functions. At the University, this includes:

 

  • The president
  • All vice presidents
  • All deans of colleges/schools
Immediate Family Members:
  • A spouse;
  • A dependent, a stepchild, or other dependent, for purposes of determining federal income tax liability during the period covered by the disclosure statement; and 
  • A related or non-related unmarried adult who resides in the same household as the individual with whom the individual is financially interdependent as evidenced, for example, by the maintenance of a joint bank account, mortgage, or investments.
Management Plan:

A written agreement that may impose conditions and prescribe actions necessary, including reduction or elimination, to manage conflicts of interest, conflicts of commitment, or outside activities.

Member of the University Community:

Any employee of the University, including any person who holds a University faculty appointment, regardless of compensation or length of appointment.

Outside Activity:

Any activity – compensated or uncompensated – that occurs outside the duties and responsibilities of a University appointment.

Outside Board:

The board, council, or other governing or advisory body of a business, civic, professional, social, or religious organization, whether for profit or nonprofit.

Outside Employment:

Any activity performed by an employee, other than fulfilling employment obligations at the University, for which remuneration is received, including instruction through distance education.

Significant Activity:

A level of engagement with an outside activity that interferes with an employee’s ability to fulfill the employee's commitment to the University or interfere with the employee’s professional judgment in exercising any University duty or responsibility.

Substantial Interest in a Business Entity:
  1. Service as an officer;
  2. A controlling interest regardless of the value of the business entity;
  3. Ownership of more than one percent of the voting interest;
  4. Ownership of more than $5,000 of the fair market value
  5. A direct or indirect participating interest by shares, stock, or otherwise, regardless of whether voting rights are included, in more than one percent of the profits, proceeds, or capital gain.
University Responsibilities:

An individual’s professional responsibilities on behalf of the University. Such responsibilities include, but are not limited to, administrative and professional work on behalf of the University, research, research consultation, teaching, and professional practice.

V. Website (for policy) 
https://policies.utexas.edu/policies/hop/5-2011
VI. Contacts 
Contact Details Web
Office of the Vice President for Legal AffairsPhone:512-471-1241Website:
Office of the Executive Vice President and ProvostPhone:512-471-4363Website:
Office of Human ResourcesPhone:512-471-4772Website:
VII. Responsibilities & Procedures 

While all members of the University community are subject to this policy, members of the community, depending on their role are subject to different procedures and/or disclosure requirements. Undisclosed and unmanaged conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment are prohibited.

 

Situations where conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment arise can be complex and/or ambiguous. Accordingly, the University defines the following two elements as critical to the effective implementation of this policy:

 

  1. Full and prompt disclosure to an appropriate supervisor of significant activities and interests outside the institution or outside the unit. This disclosure enables potential conflicts to be reviewed and, if necessary, appropriately managed.
  1. Seeking advice (by the individual or supervisor) and availability of counsel (by the appropriate University representative) to provide relevant guidance and clarification if a conflict exists or where/how a conflict should be managed. 

 

  1. Disclosure Requirements

All University employees are required to complete or update a disclosure of outside activities at least annually, even if no activities are reported. The specific disclosure requirements for a University employee are based upon that employee’s position with the University and are provided in the procedural guidance documents found in Section VIII of this policy.  A university employee should file a timely written disclosure statement when any of the following conditions exist:

  • Within 30 days of the start of their employment and within 30 days of beginning a new University appointment.
  • When requesting approval from the unit for a new outside activity that requires reporting.
  • When a change in a previously reported outside activity occurs.
  • At least every 12 months following initial disclosure.
  1. Disclosure, Approval, and Development of Management Plan: All employees are required to seek pre-approval for outside activities with the exception of those activities defined as pre-approved and described in the procedural guidance documents.

 

  1. Noncompliance: Intentional dishonesty, including purposefully failing to disclose, is prohibited and will lead to prompt action. Circumstances such as stealing, lying about matters connected with work, unauthorized private work on University time, falsifying records, making unauthorized personal use of institutional or government property, and giving or receiving a bribe in any form can lead to serious corrective action, up to and including termination.

 

  1. Employment Categories Requiring Disclosure and Pre-Approval:
    1. All employees must disclose and seek pre-approval for the following, unless the activity is specifically identified as pre-approved in corresponding procedure guidance documents:
      1. Any and all compensated activities and outside employment;
      2. Any and all academic appointments at an institution or organization other than the University;
      3. Any and all outside activity, including interest in a business entity, that reasonably appears to create a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment;
      4. Any and all outside board service except as described in procedures documents;
      5. Any and all programs sponsored, funded, directed, or controlled by a foreign government, foreign agency, or foreign institution.
  1. Executive officers and employees involved in procurement activities must further disclose:
    1. A description and the range of compensation or interest by the individual or the individual’s immediate family members, regardless of amount, in an entity that enters into any agreements or contracts with UT (e.g., service agreements, leases, sales agreements).
    2. A description of gifts over $250 to the individual or the individual's immediate family members if the gift reasonably appears to create a conflict of interest.

 

  1. Use of University Resources
  1. University Resources: Except as otherwise specifically authorized, University resources shall be used only for official business. Employees may make incidental use of University Information Resources subject to the limitations found in the University’s Information Resources Use and Security Policy.
  1. Use of University Name: Employees engaging in outside activity shall not use the name of The University of Texas at Austin, its units, or any other University trademark, service mark, or trade name in such a manner as to suggest institutional endorsement or support of a non-University enterprise, product, or service. Neither business cards bearing the University name, address and campus telephone numbers, nor University stationary, including University email accounts, are to be used in such a manner as to suggest institutional endorsement or support of a non-University enterprise, product, or service.
  1. Use of University Intellectual Property: Intellectual property related to an individual’s university responsibilities and professional expertise is owned by the UT Board of Regents as outlined in Regents’ Rule 90101: Intellectual Property. Individuals may not enter into outside activities or agreements that convey, assign, encumber, or license IP to an outside entity. IP includes, but is not limited to, any invention, discovery, creation, know-how, trade secret, technology, scientific or technological development, research data, work of authorship and software, regardless of whether subject to protection under patent, trademark, copyright, or other laws. University intellectual property must not be used for outside activity purposes except as approved by the University prior to its use.
  1. Involvement of University Students and Postdoctoral Fellows: University students may benefit from involvement in the non-University activities of a faculty member or employee. However, the educational experience of the University’s students and postdoctoral fellows should not be diminished or impeded in any way. Such involvement must be disclosed and must be approved in writing by the department chair (or dean in non-departmentalized colleges/schools) prior to the involvement of students or postdoctoral fellows.
  1. Support for University Research: Faculty seeking to work with external entities or other institutions that may divert opportunities for research support that could have been obtained on behalf of the University should seek prior written approval from the department chair, dean, or direct supervisor.
VIII. Forms & Tools 
  • Procedures:  Faculty Disclosure of Outside Activities (in process; expected completion July 1, 2020)
  • Procedures:  Staff Disclosure of Outside Activities (in process; expected completion July 1, 2020)
  • Procedures:  Athletics Staff Disclosure Requirements (forthcoming from Athletics)
  • Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost: Pre-Approved Activities
  • Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost: UT System’s Outside Activity Portal
  • Office of the Vice President for Research: Conflict of Interest
    • In compliance with HOP 7-1210 (Promoting Objectivity in Research by Managing, Reducing or Eliminating Conflicts of Interest), researchers are additionally required to complete a Financial Interest Disclosure (FID) and complete mandatory training that is available through the Office of Research Support and Compliance.
XI. History 

Last Modified date: June 1, 2021

Previously reviewed and updated: February 2020

Effective date: January 6, 2014

Next scheduled review: June  2023