Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on 'The Tonight Show.' Conflict of interest?

Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Conflict of interest? 📸: Chris Pizzello/AP

1/26/2022 6:45:00 PM

Jimmy Fallon hyped his Bored Ape NFTs on ‘The Tonight Show.’ Conflict of interest? 📸: Chris Pizzello/AP

In using his huge platform to promote a digital asset he owns, Jimmy Fallon invited uncomfortable questions about the role of celebrity influence in the NFT craze.

within NBCUniversal mandates that all employees “disclose and obtain approval for all outside work, financial interests and other personal activities/relationships that may create or appear to create a conflict.” The same policy says that employees should not “use company info, resources, time, etc. for personal benefit.”

If Fallon’s use of show time to flex his ape were to boost its resale value, it would seemingly be a case of using company resources for personal benefit.An NBC spokesperson said that Fallon did not violate the company’s conflict of interest policy, noting that hosts are able to promote outside projects such as books and movies.

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Another policy within NBCUniversal mandates that all employees “disclose and obtain approval for all outside work, financial interests and other personal activities/relationships that may create or appear to create a conflict.” The same policy says that employees should not “use company info, resources, time, etc. for personal benefit.” If Fallon’s use of show time to flex his ape were to boost its resale value, it would seemingly be a case of using company resources for personal benefit. An NBC spokesperson said that Fallon did not violate the company’s conflict of interest policy, noting that hosts are able to promote outside projects such as books and movies. Podcast: Are NFTs worth your money? Nonfungible tokens are the latest trend for people trying to get rich, and they’re more than just a place to park money. Plus: an update on last week’s episode “Our nation’s Haitian double standard.” But those are creative endeavors that in turn serve to promote NBC’s programming, whereas an NFT is a financial asset in a class where value is closely tied to virality and influencer adoption. Charles Davis, dean of the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, said that he was “unsure whether [an entertainer] sharing the NFTs they purchased equals a plea for others to buy.” “That would seem a line of sorts, if they were to market them on set,” he wrote in an email. But with Fallon, “it seems to be less shilling and more just sharing a purchase.” Don Heider, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University and a former television journalist, said that people with as much “power and influence” as Fallon “need to be thoughtful about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it” when they blur the lines between commercial versus editorial content. Financial reporters at the Wall Street Journal or Bloomberg, for instance, “follow a fairly strict code of ethics in terms of not owning stocks that they cover,” Heider added. “Is it a good idea, is it ethical, is it in the public interest, to be endorsing something on air — whether you’re a reporter, whether you’re an entertainer, anything else — that you have an investment in?” Although the Securities and Exchange Commission is now indicating that it may soon regulate the crypto space more aggressively, there’s currently scarce oversight of NFTs and other parts of the so-called Web 3.0 economy — especially as compared with more traditional fiscal assets. “We have very strict standards for how people can talk about stocks, and insider trading, and those rules have not been applied to this area yet,” Heider said. “It’s kind of the Wild West still.” The space is also awash in scams, theft and, allegedly, money laundering. Cryptocurrency prices have