Tell Me Something I Don't Know
Queenan, Joe, Chief Executive (U.S.)
In the past few months, the nation has been rocked by a series of shocking disclosures, several in the form of scientific studies. First, the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that a substantial number of financial analysts own stock in the companies they follow, and may thus be compromised by their dual roles as financial oracles and cheerleaders.
To make matters worse, these analysts often buy shares at cheap, preIPO prices in companies brought public by their employers. More alarming still, many analysts, after purchasing these inexpensive pre-IPO shares in companies they cover, subsequently initiate coverage with a "buy" recommendation.
Astounding as these revelations were, there was more jaw-dropping news on the way. According to a study by professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, and Stanford University, auditing firms that receive substantial fees from the companies they are paid to audit are more likely to stretch the limits of acceptable accounting practices and be less independent in their reporting. The report, based on a survey of 4,200 company filings with regulators since February, found that auditor objectivity tended to be "impaired" in cases where the auditees paid more for non-audit services than for auditing services.
Still in your chair?
Wait-there's more. A study of 6,000 workers at three companies, conducted by researchers at Yale University, unearthed the astonishing news that depressed employees are twice as likely to take time off from work for health reasons as workers who do not define themselves as depressed, and seven times more likely to be less productive. According to the study, from The Journal of Psychiatry, "the perceived stigma associated with depressive disorders may thus result in a high proportion of hidden costs to employers." In other words, depressed workers might be doing irreparable harm to the economy by concealing their true state and showing up for work in the wrong frame of mind.
Though this troika of broadsides may come as body blows to the average American, many of those "in the know" have seen this sort of thing coming for years. I for one had long had an inkling that analysts were more likely to issue "buy" recommendations on stocks they owned than on ones they didn't. …