Sun's new info policy angers channel

Sun's new info policy angers channel

A request by Sun Microsystems that its partners provide it with confidential information about ownership, employees and contractors has angered a number of members of its partner community and left them wondering what right the vendor has to such information.

Not all partners appear to have received the request and some declined to comment, but Computer Dealer News (CDN) spoke with several Sun partners that confirmed they had received the letter from Sun, which requested information such as resumes and background checks for ownership, employees and even contractors.

A portion of the letter sent to Sun partners, obtained by CDN, indicates the request is part of a Due Diligence program launched by Sun to keep the vendor in "compliance with international anti-corruption regulations" and is necessary due to increased regulatory complexity.

"This Program is designed to ensure that Sun is in compliance with anti-corruption laws throughout the world," said the letter. "To meet these requirements, we must also understand our partner's business ethics and reasonably determine that they are not involved in corrupt practices."

The program could be related to a disclosure Sun filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May that it had discovered internal activities in undisclosed foreign countries that Sun feels could have violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The vendor indicated at the time it had launched an investigation by outside legal counsel, and could not rule out the possibility of criminal charges or fines.

While most of the partners that confirmed receiving the request indicated they had complied with Sun's request, there was widespread displeasure and disappointment at the perceived invasiveness of the request.

One partner indicated Sun wanted personal information about himself, including his private place of residence, information he wasn't comfortable providing but did so only because he felt his relationship with Sun was on the line.

"They were looking for private information with the stick being if you don't do this, you may not be able to sell our products," said the partner, who asked not to be named. "It asked me for where I live and what the ownership of my company is; something a manufacturer has no right to know."

Sun also asked for information about employees and contractors, with the motivation seeming to the partner to be to discover if people had past relationships with Sun as well as any connections to government.

Another partner that confirmed receiving the request called it "hog-wash" and several said they have indicated their displeasure to their Sun account managers. One remarked the document was far and above any level information they've been asked for by Sun in the past or by any other vendor.

"I did fill it out because the implication was if you want to be a Sun partner you'd better comply, so we did comply," said one partner. "But it was overly intrusive."

Sun Canada declined a request for interview on the program, but it did provide a statement to CDN that confirmed the Partner Due Diligence Program is a global program that, as part of Sun's anti-corruption program, is designed to fulfill Sun's obligations under U.S. law.

"As part of this Program, a partner information questionnaire (PIQ) was distributed globally and has been completed by more than 2,000 Sun partners," said Sun Canada. "Sun's questionnaire was reviewed for global data privacy issues and is on par with questionnaires used by many other companies.

The program doesn't appear related to due diligence around Oracle's acquisition of Sun. Judson Althoff, senior-vice president of worldwide alliances and channels for Oracle, told CDN that Oracle doesn't own Sun at this point and has no ability to dictate to them what their channel policy will be.

Oracle does, of course, have its own due diligence channel policy. "We do ruthlessly respect partner and customer confidentiality and we do this with as much professionalism as we can," he said.

After this article was published online, CDN was contacted by a Sun partner that said it had completed the questionnaire and viewed it as a positive initiative. Douglas Grosfield, president of Kitchener, Ont.-based Xylotek Solutions, said the program provides an increased level of confidence for partners.

"This was in no way considered unwelcome by any Sun partner I know directly, and simply makes sense to protect business partners in today's economic and business climate," he said.

-- With files from Paolo Del Nibletto

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