Printed on: 10/17/2018. Please go to http://policy.umn.edu for the most current version of the Policy or related document.
FAQ

Standards Governing Relationships with Business Entities - Gifts

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. The $25 gift limit from business entities under the old policy provided a clear standard for employees. Why was this changed?

    This change resulted after extensive consultation with faculty and staff governance during the comprehensive review of the policy. University employees have relationships with many types of “business entities”, which are defined broadly under this policy as “any nongovernmental legal entity organized for profit, nonprofit, or charitable purposes.” The purpose of the gift standard is to avoid even the appearance that an employee’s University decision making will be compromised by the acceptance of the gift. The $25 gift threshold, or any other dollar threshold, without considering the business entity’s relationship with the gift recipient, is inadequate as a standard and could in some cases be overly restrictive.

    The new standard requires employees to examine the circumstances in which a gift is offered, and to decline gifts that would compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, the employee’s decision making in University matters.

  2. There are several different gift standards in this policy; how should I apply them to a particular situation?

    When you are offered a gift and are unsure whether you should accept it, you can seek advice from the Conflict of Interest Program. Here is an approach you can use to decide whether you should accept a gift:

    1. First, is the gift from a vendor or potential vendor to the University, and do you have direct or indirect influence in some respect regarding the contract or potential contract? If so, under Minnesota Statute 15.43 and University policy you must decline the gift if it is valued at more than $5. There are no exceptions to this standard.

      Examples

      • Your unit hired a professional services contractor. During the New Year holiday season the contractor delivers to the office a basket that includes several varieties of expensive chocolates and cookies. Decline the gift.
      • A company representative invites you to lunch to discuss how their new product could improve your unit’s efficiency. Decline the gift.

    2. Second, are you involved in the provision of clinical health care, and is the gift from a health care related business entity? If so, you can only accept the following:
      • Modest refreshments, such as coffee, donuts, and soft drinks.
      • A meal approved in advance by your chancellor, dean, or administrative unit head after determining that the meal is being offered in a context that supports the education, research, or outreach mission of the University. The value of the meal should be consistent with the standards set forth in Administrative Policy: Traveling on University Business
      • Modestly priced meals or other items (e.g., tote bags or door prizes) offered to all attendees at a widely-attended educational event or professional conference.

      Examples

      • A pharmaceutical company representative wants to discuss your potential role as a site investigator for a clinical trial at the University. You are not a consultant for the company.
        • You can accept modest refreshments from the representative.
        • If approved in advance by your department head or dean, you could accept a meal. The value of the meal should be consistent with the standards set forth in Administrative Policy: Traveling on University Business.
      • A medical device company has invited you and select others attending a professional conference on the West Coast to attend a dinner.
        • Because this meal is not offered to all attendees at the professional conference, it does not fall under the widely attended educational event or professional conference.
        • If approved in advance by your department head or dean, you could accept the meal. The value of the meal should be consistent with the standards set forth in Administrative Policy: Traveling on University Business.

    3. Third, if situations 1 and 2 above do not apply, then examine the circumstances under which the gift is being offered to you and decline the gift if it would compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, your decision making in University matters.
      • Factors to consider
        • Your University position and responsibilities
        • The business entity’s relationship with the University. Are you involved in a University decision that could affect the business entity?
        • The business entity’s reason for the gift.
        • The timing of the gift.
        • The value of the gift.
  3. How has the policy standard for gifts to employees from business entities changed?

    The gift section has changed in multiple respects, as summarized below:

    Old Policies New Policy
    The term “gift” does not include an award given for merit, excellence in a certain field of expertise, or a particular accomplishment. A gift is any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, services, training, transportation, lodging, meals, or other item that constitutes a personal benefit to the recipient. It does not include an award given for merit, excellence in a certain field of expertise, or a particular accomplishment. It also does not include a gift made to the University or its Foundation for University purposes
    Employees involved in clinical health care prohibited from accepting gifts from a business entity, irrespective of the nature or value of the gift. Employees involved in clinical health care prohibited from accepting gifts from any healthcare related business entity (e.g., pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, or medical diagnostics) irrespective of the nature or value of the gift. Modest refreshments, such as coffee, donuts, and soft drinks may be accepted.
    Covered individuals may not accept a gift that exceeds the value of $25 or gifts from a single business entity that in the aggregate exceed $50 annually , unless
    • accepted on behalf of the University, or
    • a chancellor, dean, or administrative unit head determine that the acceptance of a gift is appropriate in an international context

    Employees are expected to exercise good judgment and should decline a gift that would compromise, or have the appearance of compromising, the employee’s decision making in University matters.

    Deleted. (Gift accepted on behalf of the University is not considered a gift under this policy.)

    Employees may accept a gift made in an international context . (Determination by chancellor, dean, or administrative head not required).

    The President or delegatee may grant a categorical exception, in writing, where the recipients of the gifts are not in a position to take action on behalf of the University that could benefit the commercial interests of the business entity offering the gifts.

    May accept modest meals offered to all attendees at widely attended professional conferences, and gifts offered at widely-attended off-site educational events or professional conferences, where acceptance of the gift is optional and the gift is offered to all attendees (e.g., tote bags and door prizes at a conference)

    Covered individuals engaged in one or more higher risk activities, unless authorized by a departmental approver in advance, may not accept meals, entertainment, or similar benefits from a business entity either on or off-site, with the exception of modest meals offered to all attendees at educational events.

    For all other covered individuals, chancellors, deans, and administrative unit heads may exempt certain activities from the restrictions imposed on covered individuals engaged in one or more higher risk activities, but must ensure that business entities that provide meals, food, entertainment, or similar benefits to covered individuals do so to support the education, research, and outreach missions of the University.

    Exception deleted. (Employees are expected to decline a gift if they are in a position to take action on behalf of the University that can benefit the commercial interests of the business entity.)

    Employees may accept modestly priced meals or other items (e.g., tote bags or door prizes) offered to all attendees at a widely-attended educational event or professional conference.

    • Deletes “off-site” (exception applies whether “on-site” or “off-site”)
    • “Widely attended educational event or professional conference” definition added to policy:

      An event or conference that is attended by either a large number of people throughout an industry or profession, or by those representing a wide range of interests.

    Employees may accept meals approved in advance by the employee’s chancellor, dean, or administrative unit head after determining that the meal is being offered in a context that supports the education, research, or outreach mission of the University. The value of the meal should be consistent with the standards set forth in Administrative Policy: Traveling on University Business

    Covered individuals who have purchasing authority on behalf of the University must ensure that their acceptance of gifts meets the standards for "nominal gift" set forth in Administrative Policy: Purchasing Goods and Services Minnesota statute prohibits employees in direct contact with suppliers or potential suppliers to the University from accepting gifts exceeding the standards for “nominal gift” set forth in Administrative Policy: Purchasing Goods and Services. The University has designated a “nominal gift” as a gift that is of $5 or less in value. This includes those employees who may directly or indirectly influence a purchasing decision or contract by establishing specifications, testing purchased products, evaluating contracted services, or otherwise.

    Add:
    Disposition of Prohibited Gifts. If an employee has received a gift that cannot be accepted, the employee may:

    • return the gift;
    • pay its market value;
    • transfer the gift to charity; or
    • share a perishable gift (e.g. a fruit basket or flowers) with the office if it is not practical to return the gift.

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