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Title of Article: "Sales Code of Ethics"
Author: Jihan Murad, Esq.

Many of us who have been involved in the equine industry have heard the horror stories of a horse being represented to a potential buyer at a price double or triple the amount that is paid to the seller due to either multiple commissions or undisclosed interested parties in the transaction. Perhaps this has even happened to you.

Such a lack of ethics tends to leave a bitter taste in the consumer's mouth and is an eyesore to this industry. By no means am I suggesting that all trainers or agents are seduced by the ease of which they can make a quick buck from unsuspecting or green buyers; quite the contrary, there are many honest hard working trainers and agents that disclose their fees and related costs upfront. It is the trainers who fail to disclose their interest in the transaction that tarnish the industry and plant seeds of mistrust in both the consumers and sellers.

In many disciplines, equine sales standards do no exist nor are there governing body regulations of such sales; however, this is beginning to change and the industry is realizing a shift. For example, the United States Hunter Jumper Association has developed an Owner's Resource Guide that outlines among other things, a horse welfare code of conduct, the process for selecting a trainer, factors to consider when purchasing a horse, and a sales code of ethics. USHJA Owner's Resource Guide, 2007.

The sales code of ethics outlined by the USHJA Owner's Resource guide is modeled on the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's (TOBA) Sales Integrity Program, and is a positive step in laying the foundation for ethical standards relating to equine sales in the hunter/jumper discipline.

However, it is important for the consumer to keep in mind that the standards set forth are guidelines and not mandated therefore, it is the consumer who is charged with encouraging their trainers and agents to adhere to such guidelines. So, how do we as consumers encourage our trainers and agents to follow the suggested guidelines in a sales transaction? A good beginning is to have a written agency agreement.

An agency agreement can outline the respective duties and obligations of each party. For example, an agency agreement can establish that an agent is to act as the buyer's fiduciary and impose fiduciary duties such as the duty of care and the duty of loyalty. Additionally, agency agreements can help protect both parties should a dispute arise. Although the use of agency agreements in horse sales transactions is in its infancy, standardization will come with the demand from consumers which ultimately will benefit the industry as a whole.

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