Disclosures of financial interest and analyst reports
Yes, I'm still sorta stuck on the disclosure issues related to reporting. Specifically, financial disclosures when it comes to analyst reports.
To a large extent, most reputable news sources go out of their way to reveal any involvement of their company that might be seen to create a conflict of interest in what they say and report. For instance, if MSNBC has a Microsoft article on their web site, you'll almost always see a statement that refers to the partnership of Microsoft and NBC in running MSNBC. Regardless of what is said in the article, you at least know that the potential conflict exists. That doesn't prevent certain stories from never seeing the light of day if they reflect negatively on the company, but at least we pig detectors don't have to work as hard on the fluff pieces.
Now, an analyst firm is not a news agency. It's a private company and they can really do whatever they please. BUT... unless a report is written for a specific client, the firm is attempting to either sell their research or show their expertise in a particular area. And being that these reports are used quite often in news stories, I don't see it being a major leap to expect analyst firms to be completely and totally open about any financial relationships that exist for a given report.
For instance, a report comes out saying that Microsoft Exchange will kick IBM/Lotus' butt in the messaging market (I know it's an unlikely stretch, but work with me here... :-) ). Another analyst firm, looking at the same landscape, comes to a completely different conclusion. Could they both be accurate in their methodologies for arriving at their conclusions? Yes, they could. But if Microsoft "sponsored" analyst A's report, and IBM "sponsored" analyst B's report, it's very likely that there was influence in some degree. The readers and potential customers have an absolute right to know that....
So, I would like to see all analyst reports include a standard "disclosure of financial and technical sponsorship" section. In this section, absolutely any assistance, either financially or technical from any vendor, would be revealed. If Microsoft paid for the report, tell me. If IBM provided the lab setting and technical assistance in configuring software, tell me. Don't give me a "our research is a compilation of our views gathered over blah, blah, blah". If that's the case, I want a flat-out "We received no vendor assistance or financial compensation for creating this report."
Think of it as the Sarbanes-Oxley act for the technical analyst firms... :-)