You Can't Libel the Dead, Nor Can You Reveal Their Off-the-Record Comments


So saith the journalistic ethics mavens at Columbia Journalism Review, upbraiding both the Wall Street Journal and Fortune for ruining the afterlife of a dead Apple exec who told them highly secretive secrets about Steve Jobs' medical care, secrets that must remain, ethically, to be excavated by archeologists from a far, far future.

"Off the record" means off the record, in perpetuity throughout all known universes, the CJR thinks–though clearly the WSJ and Fortune don't. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan is silent on the matter, though he might not approve of the "unusual radiological treatments" Jobs underwent that the unethical revelation revealed.

For insider trading law lovers: does telling someone something you know about Jobs' health that inspires them to sell off Apple stock break the law?

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  1. “For insider trading law lovers”

    Are you an insider trading law hater, Brian?

    “does telling someone something you know about Jobs’ health that inspires them to sell off Apple stock break the law?”


    1. From the SEC’s website: “Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading violations may also include “tipping” such information, securities trading by the person “tipped,” and securities trading by those who misappropriate such information.

      1. If I tell you that the company I work for (I am a registered insider) is about to report a real shitty quarter and you sell your stock, that is a violation. If I tell you that our Chaimain has terminal cancer and you sell your stock, that is not a vioaltion.

        1. Actually, be careful with that. If you share information that you think could reasonably affect the stock price and that information isn’t publicly available. . .well, that could be an unmutual act from the SEC’s perspective.

          I’ve avoided owning my company’s stock in part due to concerns about whether I can ever trade knowing what I know at any given time. It’s pretty scary and uncertain stuff.

          1. The solution then is to run a company with open finances and no secrets.

            1. I have another solution, but the SEC would do me for treason if I mentioned it.

        2. If I tell you that our Chaimain has terminal cancer and you sell your stock, that is not a vioaltion.

          You are soooo sooo sooooooooooo wrong.

        3. Steve Jobs’s health is quite clearly material information re: Apple stock prices.

        4. For some reason, the movie Executive Suite comes to mind….

  2. Apple is a fucking steamroller in consumer electronics right now. They also tend to focus on longevity instead of quarter-to-quarter profits (which has, ironically, ended up with them being highly profitable each quarter). Even if Jobs were solely responsible for new ideas and policy they have enough R&D going on that they would still be an industry leader for years to come.

    1. but look where they were without Jobs, heading to the wastebasket of tech comapnies. And then he came back..ipod..miracle…OMG! Yeah, the causal relationship suggests he’s been key.

      1. Yes, and he also installed a lot of executives in the late 90s that still hold their positions. It’s not unheard of for companies to create a culture that lasts beyond a single CEO. Intel is a good example of a company that has maintained a very innovative culture through many years, even despite being a near monopoly at times.

        1. Friggin’ Apple cult. It remains a luxury brand and can hold on to that for the near term. Frankly, I think the company’s reputation has been taking some pretty big hits among consumers due to quality control issues and needless proprietary moves (among other things).

          Pricing isn’t as much of an issue for Apple, since people will pay a premium for perceived luxury brands, so I won’t mention how ridiculously overpriced many of its products are.

          1. My wife recently bought FOUR (4) Apple computers for our home use with my hearty approval, after a miserable run buying PCs that kept breaking down.

            Something isn’t really cheap overall if it ends up breaking soon after you buy it.

            Love the big-screen iMac I’m typing this on.

            1. Last time I checked, macs were overpriced, chained to a hopelessly sluggish operating system, and a real struggle to repair/modify without apple help. Plus, macs had a huge disadvantage in available software over pc’s. Maybe things have changed.

            2. I have a lovely and fully functional Dell. Reasonably priced enough that I bought it from Dell rather than putting the thing together myself, and nice and powerful.

              Windows 7 is a fine OS, too.

              Apple hasn’t been competitive in computing in quite some time. That’s why it went into the luxury brand gadgets market. Which it’s also going to lose, because, after a while, functionality, reliability, and versatility in handhelds will be viewed as far, far more important than status (and Apple is only moderately a luxury brand–there are much higher end alternatives for the stinking rich). Not to say that Apple doesn’t do innovative and neat things, but that’s not enough to justify the prices and the significant quality control problems they have.

        2. Thank god we made the athlon, or else Intel would have stagnated

          1. Love the AMD.

  3. Apple only went down 2% yesterday; proof, as Bingo says, that they are a fucking steamroller. I expected a lot sharper drop as people waited through Monday with the knowledge of his leave of absence.

    1. I fully expect to be jacking into Apple iWetWare when we enter our cyperpunk corporate dystopia in 20 years. Unfortunately, people will probably have to jailbreak the thing to enjoy virtual sex apps (not allowed in the app store).

      1. Apple iWetWare. Is that futurespeak for diapers?

        1. He’s talking about jamming chips in your cranium.

          1. Seriously, I thought being a scifi nerd was a pre-requisite for being a libertarian.

            1. Pretty much.

      2. Still, that is gonna be one sweet dystopia.

      3. It might not need to be jailbroken. Apparently, Playboy’s going to be allowed an uncensored app.

      4. Playboy’s releasing an app. Their entire back catalog will be available.

    2. …they are a fucking steamroller…

      I know you meant this in a good way, but the association with Spitzer is nasty. Maybe Spitzer should get a talk show with John Sculley…

  4. From a non-specialist:

    Insider trading originally meant trading by or on behalf of an “insider” (a board member, senior executive, etc.).

    It has been expanded to include (1) trading on non-public information that you received from an insider, and (2) trading on non-public information that you received from someone who got it from an insider (this is the Martha Stewart case, which the SEC never actually brought).

    So, under the law as written, the answer is no. Under the “law” as prosecuted by the SEC, who the fuck knows.

    1. Technically, you have violated SEC regulations by besmirching their reputation.

  5. Can we still envy the dead?

    1. Given that envy is one of the seven deadly sins, no. How ironic is that?

  6. Bioethicist, eh? How does one get THAT particular job? Do you have to have any actual qualifications, or just a bunch of people that will listen to your ramblings? Does that go for any -ethicist jobs?

    I’m going to start billing myself as a peanut butterethicicst. “Crunchy should be banned” will be my stance.

    Okay, I’m off to find someone to write me a check for my position paper.

  7. Fuck the SEC and the FTC.

    1. Clear example of insider trading. Take him away.

  8. does telling someone something you know about Jobs’ health that inspires them to sell off Apple stock break the law?

    Yes, that’s trading on material non-public information… have you ever watched AAPL trade when there’s rumors or news of Jobs being ill?

  9. Of course, markets can’t function at all unless people trade on material non-public information, so the SEC’s stance on this is stupid and self-defeating.

    Unless your goal is to give the SEC to go after anyone and everyone wherever and whenever they want.

    1. Indeedly do. Which is why I am no insider trading law lover.

    2. A major virtue of trading is to make markets more efficient by having the prices reflect the dispersed knowledge of millions of people. So insider trading laws make the market more inefficient by not having the prices nearly instantly reflect all available knowledge.

    3. Unless your goal is to give the SEC to go after anyone and everyone wherever and whenever they want.

      Ah, you’ve read the SEC’s charter, I see.

  10. though he might not approve of the “unusual radiological treatments” Jobs underwent

    Don’t make Steve Jobs angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

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