Ethics Case Study of the Week: Publication of Investment Analysis

By Gary Sarkissian posted 06-20-2022 08:00 AM

CFA Institute’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct outline the ethical guidelines for the investment profession that are critical to maintaining the integrity of capital markets and investor trust.  Members, candidates, and even firms make a commitment to uphold these standards as they help elevate ethical decision-making universally around the globe. 

As investment professionals, we face important ethical decisions in our day-to-day activities.  Some scenarios we encounter will be straightforward, while others may be more complex.  No matter the circumstances, continuous learning remains imperative in an evolving investment industry and an adapting regulatory environment. 

For that reason, each week we feature a sample case from CFA Institute’s Ethics in Practice Casebook.  Many cases are built upon real-life examples that may involve a regulatory matter or even a CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigation.  At the end of each case is a multiple-choice question that addresses the ethical nature of the actions taken in that case.  

This week’s case involves Standard I(C) Misrepresentation.

Publication of Investment Analysis
Guy is an investment analyst and member of his local CFA® Society. The CFA Society Board asks Guy to prepare an article on the future of the investment profession to be published in the society newsletter that is distributed to all members. The Board wants to publish the article for educational purposes and to generate a discussion among members at its next society luncheon. Guy agrees and drafts the article for no compensation. The article contains a list of references. After the article appears in the society’s newsletter, a research and consulting firm complains to the society’s Board that Guy copied or lightly paraphrased several sections of the article directly from two of its own reports without citation or acknowledgement. By comparing the contents of Guy’s article with the references and other sources available online, the Board finds many additional instances in which Guy directly incorporated passages into the article with only slight changes. Guy’s actions are

 A. acceptable because he did not accept compensation for the article and it did not go to clients. 

 B. acceptable because he listed references at the end of the article.
 C. acceptable because the reference material he copied was publicly available on the internet.
 D. not acceptable.
 E. none of the above.

Click the “Analysis” button below to see the analysis for this case, and feel free to discuss in the comments below.  The completion of this case qualifies for 0.25 hour of Standards, Ethics, and Regulation (SER) credit

This case relates to misrepresentation and plagiarism. CFA Institute Standard I(C): Misrepresentation prohibits members from making any misrepresentations related to investment analysis or other professional activities. This Standard also prohibits plagiarism in the preparation of material for distribution. Plagiarism is copying or using in substantially the same form materials prepared by others without acknowledging the source of the material or identifying the authors.

In this case, Guy presented the passages of other research in his article as if they were his own writing and insights without the permission or proper identification and attribution of the original sources. The fact that he voluntarily wrote the article for his CFA Society for education and discussion purposes and that it was not provided to clients is irrelevant. The fact that the research he plagiarized is publicly available on the internet also does not alter his responsibility to properly acknowledge the authors of content that is not his own. Although Guy did include references to source materials, he did not provide a citation for those passages that he included, essentially word-for-word, in the article. As a result, he violated the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. Because his violations were included in and directly tied to a CFA Institute publication, he also likely violated Standard VII(A): Conduct as Participants in CFA Institute Programs by engaging in conduct that compromises the reputation and integrity of CFA Institute. Choice D is the best choice.

This case is based on a disciplinary action taken in September 2019 by the CFA Institute Professional Conduct Program.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

© 2019 CFA Institute. All rights reserved. You may copy and distribute this content, without modification and for non-commercial purposes, provided you attribute the content to CFA Institute and retain this copyright notice.  This case was written as a basis for discussion and is not prescriptive of how a business situation or professional conduct matter should or should not be handled or addressed. Certain characters mentioned are fictional to facilitate discussion, and any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental.