Sent: 4/30/2009 8:25:13 A.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: Does the Law Undermine Business Ethics?
Dear Symantec Chief Ethics Officer,
I am writing this email to you as a result of 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).
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.
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 doubt that you will be in a position to comment on my above contentions about corporate wrongdoing or 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 their employees. I do hope, however, that you will at least think about what I say.