Subj: Behavioral science and Symantec class action lawsuit
Date: 4/20/2009 ____ A.M. Central Daylight Time
Dear Professor ___________,
This email has its genesis in behavior theory based on common human knowledge and experience. I don't know whether there is an imprimatur to be gained from a behavioral scientist, but I would like to throw the matter out to you as a Pepperdine business school faculty member specializing in behavioral science, and the matter having a context in a class action lawsuit against Symantec Corporation that is pending in the Superior Court in Santa Clara County (http://www.heverly-nortoncase.com/pdfs/ConsolidatedSecondAmendedComplaint.pdf).
I contend that corporate wrongdoing is conceived, designed and implemented by individual corporate officers, employees, agents, and others, and that ethical business conduct is fostered by holding those individuals accountable. I further contend that the country's civil liability system undermines business ethics because it distracts attention and diverts economic resources away from establishing clear guidelines governing actions on behalf of a corporation and holding officers, employees and others individually accountable under those guidelines. My contentions are set forth at length in this article: Does the Law Undermine Business Ethics?
I think the Symantec class action lawsuit is a very good case in point.
The notice that my son received describes the gist of the case as follows:
This lawsuit against Symantec Corp. (“Symantec”) alleges that Symantec, the
company that sells Norton computer and Internet security products, has an
unlawful policy of terminating subscription time of certain customers who
purchased upgrades, without providing a credit or refund for unused subscription
time, and that Symantec fails to disclose this policy. The lawsuit asserts that
each class member purchased Norton computer security software which came with a
subscription for regular “content updates” which keep the security software up
to date. These updates are delivered by Symantec via online downloads through
the LiveUpdate feature of the Norton software. As the subscription expiration
date approaches, the Norton security software prompts the user to consider
renewing his/her/its subscription for another term and also presents an
opportunity to upgrade to a new product by making an online purchase. If the
user then chooses to purchase an upgrade, the new subscription begins when the
upgrade is installed, not when the existing subscription expires. Plaintiffs
allege that the new subscription should begin when the existing subscription
expires, and that Symantec unlawfully terminated subscription time without
providing a credit or refund and without disclosing this policy.
Symantec denies these allegations and asserts that, at all times, its actions
and business practices have been lawful and appropriate. The Court has not ruled
on the merits of the claims. This means that there has been no ruling as to who
wins and who loses.
Under the settlement agreement for which court approval is being sought, the offer to each member of the plaintiff class is a $15 voucher or $2.50 cash. The requested attorneys' fees are $2,275,000.
Would you care to comment, as a scientist or otherwise, on my above contentions about corporate wrongdoing and about whether the Symantec class action lawsuit contributes to or does not contribute to (and in fact undermines for the reasons set out in my article) the fostering of ethical behavior by corporations and its employees?