Ethics 101

5:50 PM -- I am still stunned from all of the absolutely shocking behavior of big American businesses over the past few years. Enron, WorldCom, and now HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) with their childish and amateurish efforts towards some end that remains unclear, to me anyway. A given act is ethical, it’s been said, if one doesn’t mind if the whole world knows about it. I doubt any of the above firms’ actions would meet any ethical standard, and the results certainly speak for themselves. HP isn’t going down like the other two, but I expect a lot of senior management fallout regardless. And that’s as it should be. Throw the incompetent bums out.

Because without ethics we are nothing. Which brings me to my curious profession, and the fact that it’s important to know who’s paying if one’s opinion is for sale. Therein lies a difficult problem for those of us in the analyst community. It’s our job to be independent and honest. That goes without saying. But we need to keep the doors open, which means we need income, which means we need customers and clients, which means there is a potential conflict of interest in what we do. An example from Wall Street: Would an analyst be able to issue a negative report on a company that the investment bankers at the same firm are courting? Would a technology analyst risk losing the business of client if an honest opinion were rendered? All of us in this business have to deal with that.

For the record, then, our policies here at Farpoint Group : Any opinions we render are our own. That goes for anything in this space, any other columns I write, and any White Papers or Tech Notes that we publish. All of it is ours; we are not the mouthpiece of our clients. If we disagree strongly with a client’s message or tactics, we resign the opportunity -- and that’s that. We’re happy to provide quotes for press releases, but will not endorse a product we’ve not tested and used ourselves (as in, hands-on). We provide such quotes at no charge, and never charge for analyst briefings. We accept equipment and services for review, but any equipment or services used in production are paid for. We operate under the same conditions as any other independent firm, because we are. I urge everyone else in our industry to state their policies, clearly and concisely, as well.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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