We are always conflicted

By Bailey Compton 24 Nov 2023

 

We all have dollar signs on our eyes.

We have all heard of the legal principle “conflict of interest”. In layperson terms, a conflict of interest exists when you may be put in a situation where you cannot act in your client’s best interests.

The obvious conflicts involve selling property to a family member or business associate. Conflict doesn’t mean we must cease to act; it merely means you should disclose the interest.

We somehow forget the most important conflict: we are engaged for money.

1 When selling property for a vendor, agents aren’t paid unless the sale is facilitated. This inevitably leads to an agent having to weigh up the vendor’s interest of getting the highest price and the agent getting a sale done. At the pointy end of the sale, the agent starts to focus on the sale, not the vendor’s interest.
2 A buyer’s agent gets paid when the client buys. Again, at the pointy end, will the advice be free and unfettered or will the need for cash take over and lead to lopsided advice.
3 Lawyers sell time. Is it therefore in the solicitor’s interest to resolve the dispute quickly?

Interestingly, we have no measures for this problem. No industry has developed standards or reporting mechanisms to follow the business conflict. Maybe this conflict is too close to the skin to engage.

A business must make money to survive! Employees must make sales to reach their KPIs! Is this a conflict that we need to be aware of? Or is it just expected in a capitalist marketplace that representatives will ultimately serve their own purposes, and there is no reason to worry.

Can you put your client’s interests before your own?