Columbia Professors Face New Disclosure Rules

Prodded by Inside Job, the Oscar-winning documentary that exposed ties between financial firms and academia, Columbia University is tightening disclosure rules for faculty who advise Wall Street and other industries. Members of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences will have to post their outside professional activities online and inform deans about their time commitments outside the university, says Michael H. Riordan, chairman of the economics department. The new rules may go into effect as early as October. The university’s law and business schools adopted similar guidelines in April and May.

Columbia first adopted university-wide ethics policies in 2009 that required all university faculty to disclose in publications if they have financial ties to firms or individuals that relate to their research. Professors say the 2010 film, which examines the U.S. financial crisis, led them to look at how the rules could be sharpened. “Inside Job has brought the subject to the fore,” Riordan says. “I don’t think it uncovered a serious problem in the profession, but to the extent it has prompted a debate and caused people to think more carefully, that’s all for the good.”

The film asserts that Columbia finance professor Frederic Mishkin wrote a positive paper about Iceland’s economy in 2006 after receiving $124,000 from that country’s chamber of commerce. Mishkin didn’t disclose the payment in the paper, according to the film. In 2008, Iceland’s banking industry collapsed, defaulting on $85 billion.

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Columbia Professors Face New Disclosure Rules