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Apple: Is Carl Icahn Acting Unethically?

I don't know.

You buy a stock. You know your own strength. You use your Twitter account to make an announcement you know will drive the shares ... instantly. Again, nothing technically wrong with that I guess, but the impact is, arguably, greater taking the Twitter route than merely letting the SEC paperwork run its course.

As Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings proved, for better or worse, we live in different times with different ways to communicate the same old flavors of news. It's tough to get crazy over anybody -- from Icahn to Hastings -- using social media to relay information and, if they even considered it, move a market.

The more interesting question, however, considers this dinner Icahn will have with Cook. He is long the stock. It appears that, by his own admission, he will receive, in some fashion, material information about Apple, specifically the "magnitude" of the company's buyback, that will not have been released to the public. Otherwise, what's the point of talking?

And what's material? Cook telling Icahn Apple will consider increasing the buyback. Or Cook telling him they will. Or something more implicit, such as Carl, you and I have the same goals or We see eye-to-eye, brother man.

Is this, in and of itself, illegal? I'm not 100% sure. Is it unethical? I think you can reasonably make that case.

Most of us do not have this type of access. By the same token, most of us do not have as massive a position in our entire portfolio (though my contract prohibits me from owning individual stocks other than TheStreet (TST)), let alone one stock, as Icahn does in AAPL. So does this reality automatically grant him such an incredible advantage? One that is not available to the rest of the public.

Again. Very debatable.

Let's just riff here.

You own AAPL. You set up a dinner with Tim Cook. He, as it sounds like will happen with Icahn in September, discusses with you details about the "magnitude" of Apple's stock buyback. You walk away with a much better sense -- and maybe even specifics -- about the subject.

Stock quotes in this article: AAPL, NFLX 

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