Conflict of Interest: Part Deux Or Is This Trois?

Conflict of Interest: Part Deux Or Is This Trois?


Leonard Zwelling

         This is one of my favorite subjects. How can you not love it when people pledged to perform fiduciary roles undermine their own credibility through greed? It’s so, what’s the word? American!

         The new President-elect is up to his eyeballs in this issue because he will not take Peggy Noonan’s advice ( and completely divest himself from his business dealings. That would mean no more TRUMP on buildings and the kids will have to fend for themselves with Daddy’s cash because the empire will be no more. It is the only way to ensure that decisions made in the West Wing are not being made to enrich Mr. Trump, his children or his various corporations. He won the Presidency fair and square. Now he must make the ultimate sacrifice of which he is capable. Sell it all!

         Now I seriously doubt that The Donald will do anything of the sort and it will come back to haunt him over and over as he begins to understand the breadth of the decisions he will have to make and their implications around the world.

         The President of the United States, his children, and his name cannot profit from the decisions he makes as Head of State or worse as Commander-in-Chief. If he has to bomb Istanbul, I want him to feel free to do so and not worry whether or not a cruise missile might target the pool in the Trump Towers because the opposition leadership to a freely elected democracy in Turkey is swimming there at the time. Get it?

         I also want to know about the various holdings of the President of MD Anderson. He implied in his message to the Managers’ Forum that the “balance sheet” of the institution was in good shape even if the most recent versions of the income statement seem lackluster at best. I assume that means he is booking the potential income of deals he is inking with big pharma for what in return, I don’t know, as accounts receivable on the balance sheet. I am not sure that’s exactly Kosher as I assume they are only potential payoffs, not guaranteed ones although some companies may be paying MD Anderson for future rights to drugs or patient access. Who knows? That too could use a little explaining. Why is the balance sheet so secure and the income statement so lousy?

         But I am also interested in the private holdings of DePinho and his family with regard to drug and biomedical research companies including pharma, biotech, and marker development firms. Does the President of MD Anderson have a personal income statement that is in great shape regardless of that of the institution he leads?

         There is still a lack of clarity as to the involvement of the various executives at MD Anderson with regard to companies sponsoring work at the institution, like clinical trials. For the most part, Dr. DePinho has seemed to handle his conflicts the same way Mr. Trump handled his income tax statements, the stonewall. These details need to be made widely known, especially if Dr. DePinho has continued his entanglements with the companies he began prior to starting at Anderson.

         Just as Ms. Noonan called for the new President-elect to jettison all his attachments to his companies, so should Dr. DePinho jettison his with companies he started or any others making drugs being tested at Anderson or even ones whose competitors are testing drugs at Anderson.

         Conflict of interest still cannot be managed. It can only be eliminated or it exists, tolerated by those without conflict while abused by those with the money.

         It all needs to stop. Period.

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