News coverage of Regulation Fair Disclosure -- "Reg. FD" is a relatively new SEC rule forbidding companies from selectively disclosing material information -- has seemingly died down. We read that as a good sign and an indicator that companies, by and large, are behaving.
Unfortunately, one company -- and one with a close, and large, investor following -- may have gotten itself into trouble for the second time in months. In its latest 10-Q, software power Siebel Systems
The company is defending itself and hasn't admitted guilt of any kind. That said, we've been through this before: Without admitting guilt, Siebel paid a $250,000 fine a year ago and agreed to stay on the SEC's good side following a similar inquiry based on comments made at a conference. It was one of the SEC's first FD-related enforcement actions, along with cases involving Raytheon
The rule is simple enough: Either keep your mouth shut, or make sure that if you let potentially market-moving information out to some investors that you inform the rest of us. (If the commission finds Siebel at fault, we hope the penalty is somewhat stiffer than $250,000. Heck, Siebel is currently sitting on more than $2 billion cash and short-term investments.)
We highlight this story, in part, so Siebel and other companies know investors are watching. (We did the same thing in January with regard to the company now known as Time Warner
Companies that disrespect their stockholders -- or, we as like to remind them, owners -- don't deserve our money. And for the record, Reg. FD violations fall squarely into the "disrespect" category.
Is this the last straw for Siebel or just another brick in the wall? Or some third choice -- say, an example of regulators run amok? Talk it over on our Siebel Systems discussion board.
Dave Marino-Nachison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.