Research law and regulatory affairs update: codes of business ethics, codes of conduct and conflict of interest.

Author:Slocum, J. Michael
Position:Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience advances the tradition and service of the Journal of Research Administration by fostering consideration of and reflection upon contemporary issues and concerns in research administration. VOE is a celebrated feature column in each edition of the Journal. It is under the corporate authorship of some of the most distinguished and seasoned members of SRA International who lead research administration efforts around the globe. In this issue a brief but important update is given regarding a critical area of law affecting research administration and management. This update will urge staff members to work with local Offices of General Counsel to ensure that parameters are met and that standard operating procedures are aligned accordingly.


Federal regulations require that government contractors and grantees conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity and honesty. Both contract and grant regulations require a written code of business ethics and conduct, as well as an employee business ethics and compliance training program. They also mandate an internal control system that:

  1. Is suitable to the size of the company and extent of its involvement in Government contracting;

  2. Facilitates timely discovery and disclosure of improper conduct in connection with Government contracts; and

  3. Ensures corrective measures are promptly instituted and carried out.

The most explicit policy at 48 CFR (FAR) 3.1002 applies as guidance to all Government contractors. The contractual requirements set forth in the clauses at 48 CFR 52.203-13, Contractor Code of Business Ethics and Conduct, and 48 CFR 52.203-14, Display of Hotline Poster(s), are mandatory if the contracts meet the conditions specified in the clause prescriptions at 48 CFR 3.1004.

Whether or not the clause at 48 CFR 52.203-13 is applicable, a contractor may be suspended and/or debarred for knowing failure by a principal to timely disclose evidence of a violation of Federal criminal law involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuity violations found in Title 18 of the United States Code or a violation of the civil False Claims Act.

Additionally, the payment clauses in the FAR (48 CFR) require that, if the contractor becomes aware that the Government has overpaid on a contract financing or invoice payment, the contractor shall remit the overpayment amount to the Government. A contractor may be suspended and/or debarred for knowing failure by a principal to...

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