The University’s Department of
Public Safety recently confirmed that it is working with the FBI in
a probe aimed at discovering the origin of a leak of important
economic data compiled by the University. The Index of Consumer
Sentiment, released monthly by the University’s Surveys of
Consumers, functions as a critical signifier of the direction in
which the economy is headed. As an academic service and a product
of the Business School, this report is arguably the
University’s most notable nationwide project. Unfortunately,
this service is threatened by the controversies that have occurred
over the past two years. The University needs to recognize the
immense problem this information leak presents and attempt to
adequately and expediently address it.

The ICS is one of the most important indicators of economic
health. The index is released twice a month, once in the middle and
again on the final Friday. It measures how consumers feel about the
current state of the economy and is calculated through phone
interviews with about 500 people. The questions range from
attitudes toward purchasing to mortgages and credit card debt. The
index affects the optimism of investors toward the stock market and
thus the actual performance of the markets. The leaked index data
for the month of February rated sentiment at 94.4, a significant
decrease from 103.8 in January.

Several international news sources reported that the leaked ICS
data was published by Market News International. Although it is
unknown how this information was acquired, the leak was clearly the
result of an illegal security breach. In a similar incident last
year, the University’s Consumer Confidence Index was released
early. The University must find a way to repair these problems,
which have wide-ranging effects for the numerous parties who are
affected.

Due to the importance of the ICS to the market, private
exploitation of this information can be very detrimental to market
credibility. Problems extend beyond the fallout from illegal
private gains; the long-term credibility of a vital part of society
is threatened. For the stock market to function correctly, there
must be confidence that all information concerning the market is
public and that no unfair advantages exist. Financial institutions
are built upon the idea of trust and credibility, and if this is
lost, stability is soon to follow.

In addition to damaging the stock market, this data leak is
highly detrimental to the University. Scandals that affect this key
indicator reflect badly on the Business School and the University
as a whole. It is therefore in everyone’s best interest to
give this problem full priority. The Department of Public Safety,
as well as the FBI and the University, should work together to find
a permanent solution as soon as possible.

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