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Conflict of Interest

personal individual attorney public

A term used to describe the situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.

In certain relationships, individuals or the general public place their trust and confidence in someone to act in their best interests. When an individual has the responsibility to represent another person—whether as administrator, attorney, executor, government official, or trustee—a clash between professional obligations and personal interests arises if the individual tries to perform that duty while at the same time trying to achieve personal gain. The appearance of a conflict of interest is present if there is a potential for the personal interests of an individual to clash with fiduciary duties, such as when a client has his or her attorney commence an action against a company in which the attorney is the majority stockholder.

Incompatibility of professional duties and personal interests has led Congress and many state legislatures to enact statutes defining conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest and specifying the sanctions for violations. A member of a profession who has been involved in a conflict of interest might be subject to disciplinary proceedings before the body that granted permission to practice that profession.

CROSS-REFERENCES

Attorney Misconduct; Ethics, Legal.

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