Doesn’t This Drive Your Lawyers Nuts?

As you know, I’m a big believer in the transparency blogging drives for me and Sun. Driving information to the marketplace – all employees at Sun can speak their minds and clarify our strategies and perspectives, rather than having a pundit or competitor talk over us. And in reverse, driving information in to Sun – if there are problems to be found in our business, I’d just as soon they were in the open, rather than hidden away. We (and true, the rest of the world) can see and fix problems first, rather than letting those uninterested in fixing the problems take advantage of their existence (whether competitors or litigants). Sunlight’s a great disinfectant.

As a CEO who blogs, the most frequent question I get is, “doesn’t this drive your lawyers nuts?” And as I’ve said, no. Our legal team understands, guides, drives – and protects – our business. All without sneaking into phone booths to change costume. And with technology, regulation and our products all colliding in the marketplace (is it legal to scream “SOX!” in a theater filled with CEO’s?), I sleep better at night knowing they’re actively engaged.

If you want evidence that navigating today’s business environment requires careful thinking, consider one particularly ironic issue: posting material information about Sun on my blog, including information about our business results, runs the risk of violating something called Regulation Full Disclosure, or Reg FD. The regulation’s goal is to ensure broad, non-exclusionary distribution of material information to the investing public. And somehow, my blog isn’t deemed to be such a non-exclusionary distribution vehicle (but a press release, or the Wall Street Journal is). Reg FD is something we’re going to be discussing with Commissioner Cox at the SEC (whose views seem to parallel ours – the more transparency the better).

Are our lawyers in the way? The opposite, they’re driving the change. Want proof?

Very quietly, this week, our General Counsel – the senior most lawyer in all of Sun – started a blog. It’s here. He, too, is now the only member of his tribe, the only GC in all the Fortune 500 to have a blog.

Now the real question should be (especially if you know Mike), am I worried about what he’s going to say?

(Joke, Mike, take a joke.)


Filed under General

16 responses to “Doesn’t This Drive Your Lawyers Nuts?

  1. Kudos to the transparency and the trust it breeds.

  2. W. Wayne Liauh

    Just hope that SUN’s lawyers not only blog, but would also make an example of using Solaris desktops, or least
    Novell’s lawyers have been making it a habit of sending out ODF-formatted files whenever possible. Should SUN’s lawyers stay behind (or even ignore one of the most beautiful gifts SUN’s developers have given, or contributed to giving, the world?)

  3. I think it’s superb of a CEO for an important world-wide reach company to have an open dialog with both their customers and the potential customers which without a weblog would not have the same insight into what is going on at Sun Microsystems and thus probably not the same interest in what they do or who they (the company) are, either.
    On a sidenote, regarding the blog itself: I notice that the RSS Feed is supported in Firefox now. For the behalf of all Firefox users: thanks (that includes me)! That made a big difference world-wide in getting a loyal group of blog readers :-).

  4. Sin-Yaw Wang

    Wow, Mike took the plunge. This is so cool.

    Only if he takes up a different hobby than surfing. 🙂

  5. From the outside, it looks like Sun has a great corporate personality. But the only way Sun seems to communicate this is via devices like the “Share” S-shape. Things like your ex-Sun employees making solar wi-fi and your energy conservation concerns could be better communicated. This way, you’d brand Sun with a great “personality”. Maybe it’s time to change your advertising/branding company?

  6. I am sure there are quite a lot regulations which affect your writing here. It is good that you speak about that in this Blog-Post. I do however wonder if you have proof-readers from legal and sales or not.

  7. Hi Jonathan
    A number of your blog posts are interesting to read but this one in particular caught my eye because of how you describe fostering an open atmosphere at Sun.
    You are welcoming feedback from employees and trusting them to do their work — this is commendable — it’s what a “healthy” leader does.
    It’s good that your legal team value the blog as a vehicle/tool for transparency in the way that you do because initial media hype warned of so many pitfalls that it’s scared business people from realizing the value of feedback that blogs (and other tools creating user-generated content) generate.
    Welcome to the tribe, Mike!
    If you have time, I would love to profile you on Biz Blog Review with a question & answer theme on my blog if you are interested?
    Fiona Torrance

  8. Victor Cheng

    I am a web editor for a news media, I am quite confused with the transpancy problem, as the comments of the readers should be scanned before posting out? What do you think?

  9. One of the biggest challenges with corporate blogging, particularly at such high level, is to convince the public and the readers that there is transparency and openness. But this is also why the platform is gaining so much traction vis-à-vis other traditional media.

  10. I tried unsuccessfully for more than 18 months to get my company to embrace corporate blogging. I just wish you could bottle your blog mantra and put it for sale at the local market.

  11. DT

    I just read your post “On blogging as CEO” (April) ; since you are the first Fortune 500 CEO to blog, I would like to know whether you feel as an individual or as the institutional spokesman of your company when you write a post.
    Though the question seems trivial, it raises an issue which, I think, will become crucial in the coming years.

  12. Ask the WSJ, et. al., if they will provide an aggregated feed of ceo blogs. Great place to compare you and competitors and then perhaps the blogs can be argued to come under full discloser. A CEO blog mashup.
    Hank Ratzesberger

  13. A question, which I know many blogers have in mind : does a CEO’s blog have an impact on his management style and efficiency ? and how ?

  14. David

    Kudos to transparency from me, too. A lot of people are still very mistrusting of corporate America. And most of the individuals who do white-collar crimes still seem to get away with it (ie. Arthur Anderson). So, transparency does ease the tension of the feeling of “What are they really doing behind closed doors?” And personally, I don’t consider transparency as something buried in 100 pages of a 10-K.

  15. Bobby Orbach

    curious how many SUN employees actually read and respond to your blog? or are they generally afraid to blog out against the big boss?
    has your blog helped employee/CEO relations??

  16. Josh

    Jonathan, you are a MODEL chief executive when it comes to transparency. As an investor, I greatly appreciate it. The blog is excellent and demonstrates that blogging can be an excellent tool for stakeholder communications. For anyone worried about the potential for RegFD violations…readily available, current, public postings on a web blog hosted on the company’s website is a positive thing, and absolutely NOT what the SEC had in mind with RegFD. RegFD is intended to prevent private audiences from getting material, non-public information from management. Indeed, a CEO web blog is very much PRO-RegFD.
    One minor technicality…its Regulation “Fair” Disclosure, rather than “Full” disclosure. (common mistake)

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