17 July 2007

4GW: Trusted Information Class Actions...

The SEC is in the middle of a Supreme Court battle and they have called in the "A" team to assist. Former SEC officials William H. Donaldson, Arthur Levitt and Harvey J. Goldschmid want to expand investors' abilities to sue in frauds:

The big-money issue has mobilized lawyers who bring class-action lawsuits and the companies and executives they target in one of the most important securities-law issues to reach the Supreme Court in years.

In cases in which fraud-ridden corporations have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, investors may not be able to wrest money from the company itself. Lawsuits against business partners and advisers such as accountants and lawyers may present the only rich and viable option for shareholders and plaintiff lawyers, experts said.

What have we learned since Enron? Do we not have a more ethics based atmosphere at the professional services firms? In the long run, will investors be better off with the ability to sue the advisors of the companies as accomplices to wrong doing? You can bet that if the US Chamber of Commerce has it's way, the SEC is in for a real fight on this one.

Some people are behind bars. Some companies are out of business. And the Dow is again at an all time high nearing the 14,000 threshold. All of the legislation, class actions and fraud allegations are all about one thing. Information. Trusted Information.

A number of trends focused on corporate data continue to distract today's IT departments. Shareholders are clamoring for more transparency as a result of the financial scandals that have shaken confidence in corporate governance around the world. Compliance legislation such as the U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (whose impact is reaching far beyond the U.S.) can result in jail sentences for executives who - even unintentionally - report erroneous information. New privacy laws around the world restrict the use of customer information. Increasing global competition has put pressure on organizations to use their expensive information assets more strategically.

All these issues can be summed up in a single concept: trusted information. Simply accessing data is no longer enough. Today's CEOs, CFOs and knowledge-workers must be able to reliably track the information they use for decisions back to the original source systems in order to ensure its timeliness, accuracy and credibility.

Over the last decade, organizations have invested millions of dollars in systems to collect, store and distribute information more effectively. Despite this, information users at all levels of the organization are often uncomfortable with the quality, reliability and transparency of the information they receive.

Today's organizations rarely have a "single view of the truth." Executives waste time in meetings debating whose figures are correct, rather than what to do about the company's issues. Additionally, they worry about the consequences of making strategic decisions using the wrong information, directly impacting the long-term survival of the organization.

This brief essay by Jeffrey Ritter discusses the compelling forces converging at the beginning of the 21st century that are shaping the need to consider trusted information as a vital asset that should be the priority of any organization:

As the 21st century accelerates, digital devices connected to the Net will continue to be indispensable to modern life. But those devices, and the services provided through them, remain vulnerable to human judgment—the 21st century winners will be those who earn and sustain the trust of those using the devices and the services—whether those are consumers, employees, shareholders, lenders or service providers.

When the law intersects with the validity of information the corporate battle lines are drawn. Think about how much time and dollars are spent proving or disproving the integrity of information in a court of law. Those organizations who know that they are in the "4th Generation Warfare" (4GW) era will survive only if they can grasp this concept. Fourth Generation Warfare removes the front entirely. Attackers rely on a barrage of information salvos and coordinated incidents to paralyze or erode the adversaries political will, rather than seeking decisive hand-to-hand combat. Does this sound familiar to your General Counsel?

We are not talking about Al Qaeda now. We are talking about the class action "Army" that is forming the strategy and the means to wage unconventional battles against your, trusted information. Or is it?

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