The financial wires are still buzzing with the news that a French court has levied damages of $38.5 million against Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MWD) for what it says was defamatory analysis of luxury goods purveyor LVMH.

You might expect a Fool like me to engage in a bit of schadenfreude about now. After all, this is the same Morgan Stanley that paid $125 million as part of a $1.4 billion settlement for charges including selling out its analysis wing for the benefit of its investment-banking service and pushing high-fee mutual funds in order to boost profits at the expense of individual investors' wallets.

But if you listen closely, you'll hear the sound of only one of my hands clapping.

Sure, it's good to see financial industry giants held accountable for unethical analytical practices. However, opinions supported by reasonable research and untainted by backroom deals should be offered the full protection of the law, and there's no guarantee of that in France these days.

Others are already lining up at the French courthouse in hopes of a handout. Sodexho Alliance (NYSE:SDX) confirmed that it wants a payoff from Smith Barney. The two are squabbling about how to characterize a $95 million securitization of accounts receivable. Financial analysis requires some judgment calls, and if management can cry foul every time an outside analyst disagrees with the company line, we've entered Bizarro World.

Maybe this won't be as gloomy as some market watchers predict, but you'll forgive me if I have little faith in the capacity of the French to judge these matters fairly. This is the country that, in early 2003, levied a fine of $375,000 against a magazine for insulting its cheap Beaujolais wine. I rest my case.

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Seth Jayson is happy to have made it through the above article without a single wisecrack about Jerry Lewis. Reach him at