Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Problem With Wall Street Analysts Research

New York Times - Frank P. Quattrone thinks Wall Street research has “proven to be a disaster, in my humble opinion.

You remember Mr. Quattrone, don’t you? He’s the mustachioed Silicon Valley banker who brought some of the biggest technology initial public offerings to market — Cisco Systems, Amazon, Netscape, just to name a few. His career was famously derailed by a four-year-long public battle against obstruction of justice charges at the height of the previous market bubble. The charges were ultimately dropped, and he’s now back in business.

“I do think the industry should petition to remove the Spitzer initiatives because ultimately they hurt the competitiveness of our country by denying small companies the access to research analysts,” he said, throwing a proverbial grenade into the auditorium.

Mr. Quattrone was referring, of course, to the former New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer’s landmark settlement in 2002, which forced the separation of investment banking from research. The settlement followed an investigation into whether some Wall Street analysts were providing misleading ratings of the companies they covered to bolster their firms’ investment banking business. Henry Blodget of Merrill Lynch and Jack Grubman of Citigroup were barred from the securities industry and others took their licks. (As an aside, Mr. Spitzer was not behind Mr. Quattrone’s prosecution.)

As a result, banks are no longer allowed to pay their analysts from any revenue derived from investment banking, only from trading operations. Beyond that, an investment banker can’t even call a research analyst at the same firm without a lawyer chaperoning the conversation.”http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/business/12sorkin.html?ex=1376280000&en=d816fb300d1d487b&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

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