At a time when making stock research truly independent is a top priority in the brokerage industry, Thomson First Call -- Wall Street's data clearinghouse -- is pushing analysts to stay with the flock.In the wake of Wall Street's $1.4 billion settlement with regulators, analysts are under renewed pressure to offer original, honest insight into companies they cover. That means, among other things, saying when true earnings are being obscured -- for instance, by the repeated use of "one-time" charges and gains. Under the exacting standards of a post-Enron world, failing to flag such abuses can bring on widespread scorn. So it's understandable that some Wall Streeters are frustrated with First Call. Several sell-side analysts say the firm has pressured them to change their earnings estimates, simply because their numbers didn't match their peers'. These analysts say when they stood firm, First Call threatened to pull their estimates from its all-important consensus survey -- and shove their research off the front pages of its Web site. Hit hardest by the rules are Wall Street's sell-siders, who have been feeling a bit touchy to begin with. Criticized from nearly all corners in recent years for everything from publicity-seeking to apparent conflicts of interest, analysts are more sensitive than ever to issues of independence -- even as they remain tethered to the likes of First Call to reach a wider audience. First Call's research chief, Chuck Hill, defends the practice of pushing for agreement, saying the firm's overriding goal is consistency. But critics say such heavy-handed tactics serve only to manufacture the appearance of consensus -- while squelching dissent that investors might be better off seeing. "I don't like it at all," Legg Mason analyst Timm Bechter says. "It's like being told to retie your shoes incorrectly."