actually help employees do their job by providing the refreshment that comes with the occasional break from work. In the cases of Holland and Villani, it seems almost impossible for them to find a way to fold conversations with competing brokerages into the obligation to their current one. Could those conversations be justified even while recognizing that they breach the duty to fidelity? Yes. The brokers could argue that another obligation simply outweighs their responsibility to maintain their working agreement with Smith Barney. Scratching the surface a bit on the Smith Barney situation provides an example. According to a story detailing the case in the Investment News , Recruiters and executives from rival firms said the Smith Barney reps and advisers are continuing to leave the firm this year as it prepares to take the minority stake in a joint venture with Morgan Stanley, also of New York. Citigroup will exchange Smith Barney for a 49% stake in the new firm, dubbed Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and a $2.7 billion cash payment.  Smith Barney, this means, was being taken over by Morgan Stanley, and Smith Barney brokers were fleeing in droves. Of course every ship-jumping broker will have unique reasons for leaving, but it does seem plausible that at least some brokers believed this new management wouldn’t serve their interests well, and, by extension, their clients’ interests. On this foundation, Holland and Villani could build an argument. Once it became clear that the kind of service they’d been offering their clients would be impossible under the new management, they could conclude that their service responsibility to clients outweighed their responsibility to honor a commitment to Smith Barney. From there, the case may be made for the two to use company time to pursue the possibility of working for another brokerage.
Saylor URL: Saylor.org 251 Finally, it’s easier from an ethical perspective if the two could just isolate any discussions with potential future brokerage houses to non- business hours, to lunch breaks, and after 5:00 p.m. If that’s not possible, however, then the decision to impose on the working day will have to find an ethical justification. Equipment-use abuse is occupying an employer’s computers, telephones, and similar as part of the effort to find a job elsewhere. In the case of the two Smith Barney brokers, just as they may have used hours, so too they may have used Smith Barney’s equipment to negotiate their moving to another firm. This isn’t a strong form of theft (assuming Holland and Villani didn’t carry the machines out the door), but it’s a betrayal of the obligation they received when they accepted the equipment — the obligation to use it to serve Smith Barney’s interests. Or to at least to not subvert Smith Barney. Visiting Facebook once in a while, in other words, is OK, but sending e-mails to competitors, not so much.
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