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A figurative barrier meant to impede or silence the flow of information between two or more parties so as to stop or limit conflicts of interest from arising, as in investment banking or law firms. An allusion to the Great Wall of China. "Wall" is sometimes capitalized. Because of the sheer size of the company, many departments represent competing clients and interests, so several Chinese walls are in place to make sure no one can be accused of benefitting from insider knowledge.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A barrier that sets apart conflicting interests within an organization. Analogous to and named for the Great Wall of China, intended to keep out invaders, it has become, according to David Segal of the New York Times (“Chinese Walls, Pocked with Peepholes,” June 14, 2010), a metaphor/cliché for separating the parts of an organization focused on profits from sections concerned with other matters. The usage dates from the 1970s and has been applied not only to financial institutions but to groups of doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer