In another piece today, I noted that the "Inside Wall Street" column in BusinessWeek had recently tipped readers to consider perennial money-burner Altair Nanotechnologies (NASDAQ:ALTI).

I noted that Gene Marcial had noted "buy" recommendations from a couple of analysts. One of the analysts in question was Mark Harding, of one "Maxim Group." What Marcial's column did not note was that Maxim Group has done investment banking for Altair -- serving as a placement agent for a February 2005 offering and receiving a quarter of a million warrants for its trouble. (Filing here.)

Better yet -- and by better, I mean worse -- "Maxim Partners" is fixing to unload those same 250,000 shares, according to this January 2007 registration filing. By the way, there's no doubt that Maxim Group and Maxim Partners are basically the same entity. Although the Altair registration statement glosses over the relationship as one of an "affiliate," this SEC filing has the whole truth: Maxim Partners owns 94% of Maxim Group.

Why is this a problem? Well, the cynics out there might contend that it's a teensy bit self serving for one arm of a firm to put a "buy" on a stock when another arm is preparing to unload its holdings.

It's also a problem because Marcial's disclosure reads: "Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them."

Oops. Wrong on several counts, it seems.

I'm sure Gene will want to correct the record here. He might even want to hit the SEC website once in a while and try a keyword search to verify the stories he's parroting. Yeah, reading filings isn't as easy or as fun as chit-chatting with analysts, but it's a lot better for readers to know the whole truth.

Comments? Bring them to Seth's CAPS Blog.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.