Ethics in Practice: Accessing Firm Resources after Retirement

Category: Ethics

Country or region: Asia Pacific (Overall)

Summary:
If the headline above sparked your interest, you are one of the thousands of honest, ethical, and well-meaning investment professionals who want to do the right thing when it comes to fulfilling your professional responsibilities. But sometimes the proper course of action is not always straightforward and obvious. To help with those situations, CFA Institute provides guidance through its Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct (Code and Standards) as well as an Ethical Decision-Making Framework. But just as you need to practice to become proficient at playing a musical instrument, public speaking, or playing a sport, practicing assessing and analyzing situations and making ethical decisions develops your ethical decision-making skills. To promote “ethical exercise,” we are excited to introduce Ethics in Practice.
Each week, we will post a short vignette, drawn from real-world circumstances, regulatory cases, and CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigations, along with possible responses/actions (see below). Later in the week, we will post an analysis of the case and you can see how your response compares! Stay tuned!

We then encourage you to assess the case through the lens of the Ethical Decision-Making Framework and the Code and Standards and let us know which of the choices you believe is the right thing to do and why by using the comment field below.

CASE (Week 59)
Mikalev recently retired from his position as the head of mergers and acquisitions at a large international bank. Two weeks into his retirement, he discovered that he still had access to his bank’s online business journal subscription, Bloomberg market data feeds, and online data room, which contains highly sensitive documentation about a client’s upcoming acquisition. Mikalev had been in the very early stage of working on the acquisition when he left the investment bank.
Mikalev enjoys his continued access to the newspaper and Bloomberg and, if he ever considered going back to work in the industry, the information helps him to stay abreast of market trends. Of course, remembering his firm’s annual compliance training, he does not communicate or trade on the information related to the imminent acquisition by his former client. Mikalev’s actions are

A. appropriate as long as he does not trade on the material nonpublic information.
B. inappropriate because he should not have access to material nonpublic information from his firm.
C. inappropriate because he should not access any of the firm’s resources.
D. appropriate, even if he trades on the material nonpublic information, because he is no longer bound by his firm’s standards and compliance policies. 

ANALYSIS
This case relates to duty to employer, confidentiality of client information, and potentially trading on material nonpublic information. Because Mikalev has retired from his position and no longer works for the firm, it would be improper for him to have access to confidential client information. CFA Standard III(E): Confidentiality requires that client information must be kept confidential and shared only under specific circumstances, which are not present in this case. Not trading on the information does not absolve Mikalev of violating the confidentiality standard.

Trading on the client information would not only be a violation of the confidentiality standard but also Standard II(A): Material Nonpublic Information, which prohibits CFA Institute members from trading on material nonpublic information, such as the information related to the client’s planned acquisition. Such action is prohibited regardless of the fact that Mikalev no longer works for the firm.

It is possible that the firm allows employees who have retired to have access to general firm resources, such as journal subscriptions and Bloomberg data that do not include confidential client or material nonpublic information, as “retirement benefit” in gratitude for their past service. But there is no indication from the facts of this case that Mikalev’s firm has given permission or is even aware that he is using firm resources. Without a clear indication of permission by the firm, Mikalev should not use any of the resources, make the firm aware that he mistakenly continues to have access, and proactively request that his access be removed. Answer C is the best choice.

This case is based on facts submitted by an Ethics in Practice reader.


Have an idea for a case for us to feature? Send it to us at ethicscases@cfainstitute.org.


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