Conflicts of interest

A conflict of interest is a conflict between two or more interests during a decision-making process. A person or company which finds itself in a conflict of interest could thereby adversely affect one interest when serving the other. Very often, the interests at stake will be from a personal nature on the one side and an interest of an organisation, company or the public sector on the other side. This personal interest does not have to be of a financial or economic nature, and could entail any interest which has as a consequence that this person cannot impartially join a decision-making process. In the event of a conflict of interest, this person will therefore be prevented from joining the decision-making process. An example where conflicts of interest could arise is for example in the event that a mayor of a municipality, whose spouse is the director of the principal financial institution of that same municipality, takes decisions with regard to this institution. Often, persons holding a function in organisations, companies or the public sector will have to verify whether a conflict of interest is at stake when they take decisions, and refrain from taking a decision if this is the case. In some instances, failing to do so could entail criminal sanctions, for example when one of the interests involved is of great societal importance.