Unsafe sex

Employees at the brokerage subsidiary of US firm Salomon Smith Barney were reminded recently that office networks are just that, office networks, not private property of employees.

The reminder came in the form of the dismissal of two Smith Barney executives who allegedly downloaded pornographic images from the Web and used the corporate network to send them to each other and to two other employees.

Because the employees were fired and not merely suspended, and because one of them was a highly regarded analyst of brokerage firms and asset management companies, the action drove home the seriousness with which Smith Barney regards the offence.

Like most companies, Smith Barney clearly states in its employee handbook, "There is no personal privacy when you use Salomon Smith Barney's equipment and services. . . . Improper use may subject you to disciplinary action, including termination of your employment."

A memo sent to all employees from John Donnelly, managing director for human resources, didn't pull any punches. "Using firm facilities to communicate such offensive material is totally unacceptable," he wrote.

Donnelly didn't have to mention that the policy applies to everyone, even hotshot analysts. The thousands of messages identifying the dismissed executives that were flying through the company's e-mail made that point loud and clear.