Rutgers president eyed over possible conflict of interest

July 16, 2013 4:49:52 AM PDT
Rutgers University's president sits on advisory boards of two companies that do business with New Jersey's flagship school, a practice that some business ethicists find troubling.

Rutgers officials gave Robert Barchi permission to serve on the boards of VWR International and Covance Inc. when he was hired last year.

The Record newspaper reports the two companies paid Barchi $317,000 in fees and stock awards last year for the part-time advisory posts. Barchi, whose salary at Rutgers can reach $747,000 if he receives bonuses, has also accumulated stock in both companies.

Rutgers has paid VWR International, a publicly traded lab supply company, and its subsidiaries $15 million since 2008. The pharmaceutical research firm Covance received about $100,000 since 2008.

In a statement to the newspaper, Barchi said because he recognizes the potential for conflict, he has not been involved in any decisions at Rutgers involving the companies since he became school president.

He also said in the statement that Rutgers recognizes the value of having its chief executives serve on corporate boards.

Trustees say they support Barchi's being on the boards, on which he served before being hire by Rutgers.

But Cary Nelson, a past president of the American Association of University Professors and co-author of a report due later this year that recommends university policies to avoid conflicts, said Barchi's involvement with companies that do business with the school is a problem, even if he recuses himself on decisions regarding the businesses.

"What we say is that no administrator should serve on a corporate board or have any kind of financial relationship with a company that does business with the university," he told The Record. "That's a fundamental principle that has to be honored."