Views on improving the integrity of global capital markets
06 December 2018

Ethics in Practice: Accessing Firm Resources after Retirement. Case and Analysis–Week of 3 December

CFA Institute Ethical Decision-Making Framework

How did you do evaluating this week’s (3 December) case? Check out the analysis below.

Case

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

  1. appropriate as long as he does not trade on the material nonpublic information.
  2. inappropriate because he should not have access to material nonpublic information from his firm.
  3. inappropriate because he should not access any of the firm’s resources.
  4. 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.

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


More About the Ethics in Practice Series

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. The Ethics in Practice series gives you an opportunity to “exercise” your ethical decision-making skills. Each week, we post a short vignette, drawn from real-world circumstances, regulatory cases, and CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigations, along with possible responses/actions. We then encourage you to assess the case using the CFA Institute Ethical Decision-Making Framework and through the lens of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. Then join the conversation and let us know which of the choices you believe is the right one and explain why. Later in the week, we will post an analysis of the case and you can see how your response compares.


Image Credit: ©CFA Institute

About the Author(s)
Jon Stokes

Jon Stokes is the Director of Ethics and Standards Education at CFA Institute. His responsibilities include design and creation of on-line ethics education, development and maintenance of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct, and the design and management of the CFA Institute Ethical Decision-Making and Giving Voice to Values education programs. Stokes holds a JD degree.

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