JPMorgan Tech Conference: Computer Associates Forced to Play Defense
You could almost hear the cries breaking out from the back of the room as Computer Associates (CA) CFO Ira Zar defended his company at the JPMorgan H&Q Technology Conference. He was addressing, point by point, the criticism his company has drawn in the last two days over its accounting in the wake of a scalding article by The New York Times.
But it wasn't just the accounting bombs that Zar had to defend. Surely, it would have been nice if someone had offered him a life preserver -- or just got him off the stage -- before he was reduced to addressing the Times' barb that CA uses "young, cute girls to basically resell maintenance contracts."
Still, that's what he found himself doing."It's a little disheartening to have to defend this," Zar told a room of investors who seemed unusually attentive -- think people driving by a car wreck -- at the 8 a.m. Pacific Time presentation. "We take great pride in our diversity and the leadership we show." Zar went on to detail how women are in senior management positions at CA, and said a yet-unnamed female executive oversees the firm's European operations. Of course, uncomfortable a topic as this must be for CA, anyone who's ever been to a software industry trade show knows that using "young cute girls" to sell software -- to sell anything -- is a tried and true practice. (We didn't coin the term "Booth Babes;" we merely offer it here as evidence.) But the fact that Zar even had to talk about such things tells you something: CA's investment story, which has never been easy to understand, has now moved into an even less desirable category, despite analysts' vigorous
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