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TechNet Day in Washington, DC – Focus on Education

March 8, 2005 at 12:00 pm PST

I’m in DC this week for TechNet Day among other various and sundry business. TechNet today released its 2005 Innovation Agenda which you may (or may not) find interesting. At the least it is an earnest attempt to give advice and guidance and thoughts on what this group of technology executives and companies find of public policy import. Among the top issues is helping improve the U.S. K-12 education system. The passion which the technology executives in attendance discussed education actually impressed me. Cisco has long talked about the importance of education as one of the primary reasons that innovation is born and a country remains competitive or gets competitive, but I had no idea how much thought most of the attendees put into this issue.

I was at another event last night where a reporter inquired if we would be discussing stock options ad nauseum (the reporter did not hide their inference that this would not make them happy). Stock options, it seems, among the reporter set is a done issue. Not so for TechNet, for Cisco and for much of the 14 million U.S. stock option holders. The issue continues to be worked on multiple fronts and we eagerly await guidance from the SEC on implementing, as well as any thoughts they have on valuation. I should add that the majority of the time at said event was not taken with a discussion of stock options, but of…education. Many of the attendees were parents of school age children and could speak first hand what worked and what did not. Further, the consensus at a luncheon session today was that the technology industry has a lot of good ideas that could be brought to bear on improving education -- it is only a matter of picking where an impact can be had -- both short term, mid- and long-term. None of the technology executives claimed to be education experts, but all want to help.

The luncheon speaker today was Senator Barack Obama [D-IL] and I must say that you should believe the hype about him. I last heard him at the Democratic convention in Boston this past summer where he silenced the oftentimes inattentive crowd -- when they weren’tt cheering for his words. When he speaks, people definitely listen. He has worked the on the education issue for a long time -- most significantly while in the Illinois Senate. The most intriguing idea that he discussed was how to get those industry professionals outside of the K-12 education system to directly benefit the K-12 education system -- much like those today in industry often move between academia, industry and government…i.e. why can’t a chemical engineer for a major drug company retire early and go teach high school chemistry? Interesting concept.

See the TechNet Innovation report here: http://www.technet.org/resources/TechNetInnovationInitiative.pdf (Adobe document)

Boilerplate on TechNet: TechNet is the national, bipartisan network of CEOs that promotes the growth of technology industries and the economy by building long-term relationships between technology leaders and policymakers and by advocating a targeted policy agenda. TechNet, based in Silicon Valley, has offices in Seattle, Boston, Austin, and Orange County (California). Web address: www.technet.org.

Privacy and Security

Over the last few weeks, we have all been concerned with the reported loss of data from ChoicePoint and the Bank of America. Properly maintaining, holding and safeguarding private data is important to each of us as individuals, to the reputations and businesses of those holding data, and to the continued trust in electronic-based services. From a policy perspective, we need to continue to drive these cases to fact.

As I understand it, ChoicePoint was defrauded into selling or giving data to bad actors. The Bank of America is reported to have lost some of its tapes. These were not hacks, breach of computer systems, the result of spyware, or other ‘cyber security’ events. Notwithstanding this, in many of the policy discussions surrounding the events, it seems that people are treating them as breaches of ‘cyber security.’ From what I can glean from the factual reporting, this is not the case.

They are important cases, however, and we need to know more. Were these crimes? The principles animating what defines criminal activity are centuries old. I suspect the principles and words of existing law can be applied to these facts. But we do need to examine these facts, and think about these issues, both from a privacy and criminal law perspective. These issues will continue to play out over the next few months, and we all should inform the process as policy makers understand what happened, what it means, and react.

Have a great Friday…..

Business Blogs…Are you ready?

March 1, 2005 at 12:00 pm PST

Riva Richmond of The Wall Street Journal today writes about blogs and how they are being used by businesses. Her article states that there are now 8 million US bloggers and 32 million blog readers. By my cursory math, that means that there are approximately 4 people reading this posting.

We are still trying to find our voice on this nascent public policy blog and I’m sure we’ll go through several iterations before we fully understand what type of information our readers are looking for. It was created to extend our reach and get some of our “unofficial” thoughts down on “paper” for the purpose of discussion, information and interaction. A recent question we received was regarding how we got the blog up in the first place…the logistics, the approvals, etc. We definitely followed regular order: we made a plan, researched the technology, got the appropriate leadership and IT approvals and then got the blog up as soon as we could before anybody could change their mind!! : ) By the way, we chose blojsom (www.blojsom.com) as our technology.

So, let us know what you want and check out the Journal article and see what you think about business blogs. You have to have a subscription to read the story, but access to blogs is free, free, free. The story: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/0,,SB110963746474866537,00.html OR, of course you can stop by your local coffee shop or library and check out the article on page B1.

San Jose Mercury News on Stock Options

February 25, 2005 at 12:00 pm PST

Check out today’s editorial in the San Jose Mercury News. It calls on regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to stop the expensing of stock options. If they cannot do that, it calls for Congress to step in and take action. HR 913 was introduced on February 17th by Congressman Dreier (R-CA) and Congresswoman Eshoo ( D-CA) and calls for an economic study of the impact of expensing options as well as a delay in expensing while the study is taking place. Check out the editorial at the San Jose Mercury News (free registration is required).

Getting Some Things Off My Chest…Stock Options…

February 24, 2005 at 12:00 pm PST

Please read this blog’s disclaimer before reading this one. : )

After the FASB decided to treat stock options as an expense last December, the chairman of that august board was quoted in a Bloomberg story as follows: “Stock options have been a ‘free good’ because their cost was omitted, Herz said today. “Once you have the accounting costs, you get a much more robust debate on the appropriate way of compensating executives.”

So, that definitely confused me, as I thought that the FASB was the Financial Accounting Standards Board and not the Financial Executive Compensation Board. I was under the impression that the FASB wanted to expense options because, to them, it made accounting sense, but all along, it appears they wanted to work on the executive compensation issue. I don’t remember voting for any of the FASB members in the last election. Do you? I’m not an apologist for executive compensation, but in reading the FASB mission statement, I don’t see anything in there about being the judge and jury on corporate compensation. (See statement below).

“The mission of the Financial Accounting Standards Board is to establish and improve standards of financial accounting and reporting for the guidance and education of the public, including issuers, auditors, and users of financial information.”

Help me understand their role in executive compensation. Or their role on the economy -- and the potential impact that expensing stock options would have. Yes, the House passed legislation last session on this (by a 3 to 1 margin) and 53 Senators sent their concerns to the SEC on this, but the June 15 date still looms (expensing of stock options is to begin at the first interim or annual reporting period that begins after June 15, 2005).

So, clearly I’m venting, but I think that some questions still need answered…and we’re still working on this. For more information on stock options, please visit the stock options coalition website at www.savestockoptions.org.