The old adage of Silicon Valley, “no conflict, no interest,” came to mind after reading a NYT piece yesterday providing more context to the move by former Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge to join the board of RFID company, Savi Technology. (We first wrote about the appointment here).
Turns out, while in Washington, Ridge “championed a pilot program that put Savi’s tags on some cargo containers to monitor civilian shipping that terrorists could use to slip a bomb into the country,” the Times reports. Unfortunately, the article provides few specifics: The word “champion” could mean pretty much anything — including simply signing off on the arrangement, which may have made perfect sense. Indeed, Sunnyvale-based Savi began winning Pentagon contracts back in 1998, well before Ridge attained his influential position. We’ve put in some calls to Savi to find out more.
(UPDATE: Savi board member Alex Slusky got back to us, and he says: “Very misleading blurb from the NYT. The program they are referring to was proposed before DHS even existed. It was championed by Senator Murray who chaired the transportation committee when the Democrats controlled the Senate. We actually got very little support from DHS for the program. At one point, they even tried to take away the funding. Savi was a small subcontractor on the project and we lost money on the deal.” Ok, so now this post’s theme is looking a little weak. Moving right along…)
The “no conflict, not interest” moniker also comes to mind when looking at the ties that seven members (or see here) of the governing board of California’s new stem-cell institute have with companies connected to stem-cell research…
…To name just one example: David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate and president of the California Institute of Technology, serves on the board of Amgen, a Southern California biotechnology company that has a strategic relationship with a stem-cell company, ViaCell, according to a report on the ties. The report also said he has at least $10,000 invested in Teva Pharmaceuticals, which is allied with Gamida-Cell, a stem-cell company.
We thought reporter Steve Johnson did a very balanced job outlining the issues.
Still, no surprises here. You can bet that if you made these board members divest their interests in the stem-cell companies, they’d have less interest in serving on the institute’s board. That’s their right. But it upholds the adage “no conflict, no interest.”