Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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3/28/2006
07:27 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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What Happened To Morgan Stanley Could Happen To Any Of Us

Reading over the tawdry details of a disgruntled employee's lawsuit against Morgan Stanley, any reasonable person is going to break out in a cold sweat and get a feeling that what happened to Morgan Stanley executives could happen to any one of us if we fail to follow some commonsense rules about doing business.

Reading over the tawdry details of a disgruntled employee's lawsuit against Morgan Stanley, any reasonable person is going to break out in a cold sweat and get a feeling that what happened to Morgan Stanley executives could happen to any one of us if we fail to follow some commonsense rules about doing business.Arthur Riel, a former Morgan Stanley IT manager who set up the company's E-mail archive, filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. He charges:

- CTO Guy Chiarello received hard-to-get sports tickets and other favors from tech vendors that do business with the firm.

- Morgan Stanley investment bankers pressured the firm's IT department to buy from vendors as a way to win their banking business.

- Former CFO Stephen Crawford tried to wall himself off from all E-mail communications coming from outside his inner circle. The reason, according to Riel's complaint: to make it virtually impossible for whistle-blowers to contact Crawford.

Morgan Stanley counters that the accusations are groundless.

The courts will decide on whether Riel is telling the truth, and whether Morgan Stanley violated the law or regulations. However, we can already learn some lessons from the Morgan Stanley execs' misfortunes:

Don't put anything in E-mail you don't want to have read on the pages of InformationWeek. Or the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or the New York Post.

When we write or read E-mail, we think we're dealing with a private, confidential communications channel. But in fact, E-mail is a public medium. Laws and regulations require companies to archive their E-mail and disclose messages under subpoena. Those messages can be made public as part of a lawsuit, which is what happened here.

Don't accept gifts of more than nominal value from vendors. Don't accept any gifts from vendors you'd be embarrassed to read about in the pages of InformationWeek.

E-Mail is fundamentally broken. Workers are overwhelmed by the amount of legitimate E-mail they're receiving.

It's not just spam--even after we've deleted all the junk, some of us don't have time to even read all the legitimate E-mail we receive. We need tools to help prioritize messages. Some of us turn to technology, some of us hire assistants to cull through our messages, and some of us rely on developing good work habits to deal with the E-mail overload.

My colleague Paul McDougall has been weighing in on these subjects on the InformationWeek Weblog. He takes Morgan Stanley to task for allegations about misconduct in how it awards IT contracts. He also quotes from some of the E-mails surrounding gifts from vendors to Morgan Stanley's CTO and asks whether Morgan Stanley was out of line. What do you think?

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