NYSSA Forum Program (1999 - 2001)


Forum Home Page


NYSSA Forum Program

Reference List


Note: The article below was part of the coverage for which the reporter won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for "her trenchant and incisive Wall Street coverage."

For Ms. Morgenson's continuing coverage of related investor interests, see


JUL 20, 2001

Analysts' Group Halts Forums on Companies


he New York Society of Security Analysts, one of the nation's largest organizations devoted to advancing the quality of security analysis, has halted its public forums examining management's responsibility to shareholders at public companies.

The society is reacting to concerns within its top ranks that the forums had taken too aggressive an approach, according to people close to the board.

The two-year-old program of forums recently spotlighted the financial information provided by Amazon.com, especially its extensive use of pro forma figures, which omit such ordinary business expenses as interest, taxes and depreciation. Forums focusing on Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon and Computer Associates were in the works.

The suspension comes as investors, securities regulators and members of Congress are questioning whether Wall Street analysts are up to the job of providing investors with unbiased, rigorous analysis of public companies' prospects. There is fear that brokerage firm research has been corrupted by analysts' eagerness to write glowing reports to help win lucrative investment banking business for their firms.

The board of the society, a not- for-profit group with 8,000 members, shut down the forums because member attendance had fallen off recently, said Jeffrey L. Evans, recently installed as the society's president. Mr. Evans said he could not provide attendance figures for the forums.

Mr. Evans is an analyst at the Advest Group. Before joining Advest, he was a managing director and senior analyst at BlueStone Capital Partners, a small New York firm which sold its investment banking and brokerage business to Whale Securities, another small brokerage firm, in March.

The New York Society, founded in 1937 by Benjamin Graham, revered author with David L. Dodd of the book "Security Analysis," has been largely silent on the issue of analyst conflicts. In a statement on Monday announcing his appointment as president, Mr. Evans said: "The individual and collective behavior of investment professionals is gaining attention among regulators and in the media. Through Nyssa, we can provide a forum to shed some light on these important issues."

But now shelved are shareholder rights issues at two companies planned for examination by the society's corporate governance committee. Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon, a chain of steakhouses based in Wichita, Kan., had been on the agenda after shareholders disenchanted with the performance of management voted earlier this month to remove Jamie Coulter, the company's chairman, from the board. The Lone Star forum began independently, but was picked up by the governance committee in late June after The New York Times reported erroneously that the society was a co-sponsor of the forum.

Computer Associates, a Long Island software company that is the subject of a proxy fight, was also on the committee's list.

In addition to shutting down the forums, the society has removed from its Web site all information relating to the four forums conducted the last two years. Gary Lutin, an investment banker at Lutin & Company in New York, and co-sponsor of the forum program since 1999, declined to comment about the withdrawal. Mr. Lutin said he would continue to support the forum program with other organizations.

Ken Bertsch, director of corporate governance for TIAA-CREF, the big institutional investor, said the forums had played a useful role. "They don't want to take sides, they want to raise issues in a broad way and for educational purposes," he said. "They've been hitting the issues that are of concern, particularly the pro forma numbers."

Mr. Evans said that the society might have new forums in the future. "But what form it takes I can't tell you right now," he said.

Jerry Flum, president of Credit Risk Monitor in Floral Park, N.Y., and a longtime member of the society who participated in the Amazon forum, said he was dismayed to hear that the program had been discontinued. "Who is going to represent the interest of the investor groups if not the New York society?" he asked.


Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company



Material presented on this page was distributed to participants in a "Forum Program" conducted for public educational purposes, co-sponsored by Gary Lutin with the New York Society of Security Analysts ("NYSSA") Committee for Corporate Governance and Shareholder Rights from January 1999 to July 2001.

For additional information, send an inquiry to admin@shareholderforum.com.