Morgan Stanley analyst named top Oracle exec

Oracle Corp. has appointed a seasoned Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. software industry analyst as its new executive vice president in the office of the chief executive officer (CEO), reporting directly to company chairman and CEO Larry Ellison.

Charles Phillips is leaving his post at the analyst firm to focus on customer and partner activities at Oracle, and will also work on business strategy and development, the company said late Thursday. Phillips will also be on Oracle's Executive Management Committee.

Phillips has been a enterprise software industry analyst since 1986, and has worked in Morgan Stanley's Institutional Securities Division since 1994. He also holds a bachelor's degree in computer science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in finance from Hampton University in Virginia and a law degree from New York Law School.

The appointment of an analyst is considered somewhat unusual given the distance that is usually encouraged between analysts and the companies they cover, according to business ethics experts.

"There is a potential conflict of interest in a case like this and companies have to be aware of the integrity of the person they take on," said Philippa Foster Back, director of the Institute for Business Ethics in London.

In fact, U.S. securities regulators reached a US$1.4 billion settlement with Wall Street brokerages earlier this year over conflict of interest allegations.

There has been no evidence of concern over Phillips' coverage. Philips was ranked the number-one enterprise software industry analyst by Institutional Investor magazine every year since 1994, according to Oracle.

However, Foster Back did warn that the case of analysts moving to companies in industries they once covered can be a concern for industry rivals. Analysts are sometimes privy to insider information on companies, she said, and when they take that information to their new employers it could create another potential conflict of interest.

"Unless the person applies a Chinese wall within their head, this could create a problem," Foster Back said.

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