Must economists and law professors disclose financial interests and conflicts of interest when they write ? Common sense says: of course they must disclose.
History, however, shows that myriad economists and some Wall Street denizens fail to recognize or disclose conflicts of interest. An especially biting view is laid out in this wonderful post by the Epicurean Dealmaker.
But, amazingly, the disclosure topics are just now being aired by some. As to law professors, consider this post by Erik Gerding at the Conglomerate. As to economists, consider Sewell Chan’s NYT article, also covered by Mr. Gerding. Stunningly, Mr. Chan’s article reports that some economists claim to be scientists but do not want to disclose their financial sources or conflicts of interest. Mr. Chan’s article also includes this key excerpt on an upcoming book:
"Since economics emerged as a modern discipline in the late 19th century, its practitioners have resisted formal ethical codes, said George F. DeMartino, an economist at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
In “The Economist’s Oath: On the Need for and Content of Professional Economic Ethics,” to be published in January, Mr. DeMartino describes concerns dating to the 1920s about the influence of business on economic research, and cites multiple calls within the association for a code of conduct — all of which have been rebuffed."
I cannot grasp a view which says its OK not to disclose conflicts of interest, especially when it comes to sponsored research, a topic highlighted by Mr. Gerding’s post and a movie on the financial fiasco, Inside Job. Indeed, does one really need to think long about this topic after remembering that sponsored research generated by the tobacco industry was used to create millions of excruciating cancer deaths through decades of false doubt about whether cigarettes cause cancer ? Indeed, as described here, some publishers will no longer accept research paid for by tobacco money. Or, consider other examples of the problems flowing from undisclosed "sponsored research," a topic covered in various posts collected under that topic on the right hand side of this blog.
One also might think that those who fail to disclose may soon find themselves as targets in "aiding and abetting" litigation. The topic of aiding and abetting liability was previously covered here, and recently has been made more prominent by aiding and abetting claims related to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.