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Board Amends Gift Giving Restrictions

At its February meeting, the Board of Directors took up once again the question of gift-giving and voted to amend the recently released COPE Advisory Opinion No. 45, which was published online and on page 20 of the March JCR.

In response to feedback from members following the Advisory Opinion's release, the Board voted to remove from the Opinion the absolute restriction on "Cash or cash-equivalents (e.g., gift cards, Starbucks cards, gas cards) of whatever size ..."

Although such gift cards are permissible, it is important to stress that, like other items of value, they must be included in the aggregate limit of $100 per recipient per year, except where such cards are of purely nominal value (under $10). Moreover, members are reminded of the requirement that, "Members must adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the rule regarding gift giving and avoiding the appearance of impropriety. For example, to repeatedly give gifts valued at under $10 to the same recipient in order to exceed the $100 aggregate limit would violate the spirit of the provision and hence be impermissible."

In addition, the Board voted to approve the Committee on Professional Ethics proposal to start enforcing the new gift-giving guidelines effective April 1, 2009, to give members time to adjust their business practices to meet the Code's requirements.

COPE Advisory Opinion No. 45