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ANA Urges ICANN to Conduct Thorough and Proactive Review of Conflict of Interest Policies in Order to Regain Internet Governance Legitimacy

October 3, 2011; Washington, D.C. -- The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) is asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to conduct a thorough and proactive review of both the TLD Program and the broader conflicts of interest and ethics policies for the organization so that ICANN can reclaim its legitimacy as an Internet governance body.

In a letter filed today with ICANN, ANA's President and CEO, Bob Liodice, expressed serious concerns about that group's Conflict of Interest (COI) policy:  "Instead of soliciting systematic review of the COI policy, ICANN seeks comments solely on whether the Board may vote on a new compensation scheme for Directors."  ANA's letter points out numerous further conflict of interest issues that ICANN needs to immediately address.

Liodice emphasized that:   "Clearly, ICANN has missed the bigger picture.  .  .  Because the Internet serves as a recognized catalyst for global economic growth, there is far too much at stake, particularly in the present economic climate, not to assure that ICANN's conflict of interest policies foster fair and impartial Internet governance."

ANA's letter notes that within a month after the vote of the ICANN Board to approve the new Top Level Domain (TLD) Program, former ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush had joined a London company called Top Level Domain Holdings, a company that will directly profit from ICANN's TLD vote:  "There is, at a minimum, legitimate reason for concern that the lack of adequate conflict of interest policies have led to the development of a growing perception that Mr. Thrush (and perhaps other senior staff who recently have left ICANN) may have let future career prospects influence their official duties."

Liodice stated: "These events have resulted in a serious cloud over the legitimacy of the vote to approve the new TLD program.  ICANN serves as a quasi-governing body for the day-to-day operation of the Internet and it is absolutely critical that all decisions are made in the public interest, not in the best interest of the closely-knit ICANN family.  We believe ICANN can reclaim its legitimacy as an Internet governance body only through a thorough, top to bottom review of all COI policies."

Liodice further pointed out that "the Internet is now relied on by over 2 billion people worldwide in their daily lives.  As ICANN decisions could have multi-billion dollar impacts on brand-holders, it is essential that their conflict of interest policies provide real protections rather than an administrative charade."

ANA's letter notes that serious concerns about the inadequacy of the ICANN conflict of interest policies have been expressed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), by Lawrence Strickling, U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, and by the full European Commission.

Liodice concluded that ICANN's "revolving door" and the loopholes in the ICANN conflict of interest policies "raise the most profound questions as to the ability of ICANN to represent the public interest.  These broader conflict of interest issues cannot and must not be delayed as fundamental issues of major economic consequence are before ICANN, the Department of Commerce and the Internet community."

 ANA's letter is available here.

 

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Founded in 1910, the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) leads the marketing community by providing its members with insights, collaboration, and advocacy. ANA's membership includes 400 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing communications and advertising. The ANA strives to communicate marketing best practices, lead industry initiatives, influence industry practices, manage industry affairs, and advance, promote, and protect all advertisers and marketers.  For more information, visit http://www.ana.net/, follow us on Twitter, join us on Facebook, or visit our YouTube channel.

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