It is referred to as “insider information” or “insider trading” …
(which might be aimed to “manipulate stock prices” for the benefit of that person
causing the information to be leaked, or anyone just taking advantage of such situation.)
Low level employees (like those that post in these forums,) who are not corporate officers, do not have the authority to make these kinds of future product announcements.
And, when such announcements are made, you can be sure that in the U.S. that SEC officials will examine the major blocks of a corp’s stocks for “interesting” trades in the periods both before and following the announcement(s). [This is how Martha Stewart got caught. She dumped her stock after learning from an insider that a bad announcement was forthcoming and would severely affect the stock trading price.]
So, the main point is that corporations are very careful about who makes announcements and when public announcements are made. There are laws in the U.S. that any change in the amount of stock held by major stockholders or corporate officers must be made public immediately. (And possibly the SEC must also be quickly notified with some form or other means.) So, those stockholders under scrutiny, are very touchy about any employee making public statements that could cause any of their stock transactions around the same time be investigated by the SEC.
I am not a lawyer and would be interested in reading an opinion from someone who is, but I think the situation has been misrepresented somewhat.
Per the articles @DanRathbun cited, insider trading involves buying or selling (“trading”) of securities based on information that is not available to the general public. It does not involve unauthorized disclosure by employees per-se. In fact, the main examples of insider trading are when an employee himself buys or sells based on non-public information or passes that information privately to someone else who might buy or sell based on it.
The fact that Trimble does not publicly reveal plans for SketchUp is a company policy decision. I think that policy (and similar ones at other companies) is based on competition, not on SEC regulations or worries about insider trading. Trimble marketing could legally decide to announce a feature set for a future SketchUp version, for example to steal the march on a competitor. An employee who publicly disclosed plans on this forum without authorization might be subject to serious disciplinary action, but the disclosure would not of itself constitute insider trading because the forum is public.
Edit: much of this is similar to @DanRathbun’s clarification, which he wrote while I was typing.
Yea, it still might have been “insider information” not yet meant to be public.
The “trading” if it resulted, might have a defense that the forum “is public” and therefore the information is no longer “insider” since it was posted. But I’m not lawyer either. It could be that informal forums, even though they are public, may not be considered official releases in a legal sense.
It also seems like the old pre-crime publication alibi that has been the plot of several movies I’ve seen. The ones where the murderer wrote a murder novel first and then commited the crime, using the excuse that no one would publicise there crime beforehand.
You know what I mean. You’re not up there in the ivory tower … yet.
But if you have “President” or “Vice-President” on your office door, then you know you’re not who I was speaking of. I often speak in a matter of fact way, and “low-level” is just a fact. Not meant as a slight.
I agree competition is a big factor.
I suppose we will not for certain unless Trimble has published a statement about public statements.
I understand that the stock price of, for instance, a company making electric cars, is to a very large extent influenced by expectations about what the company is going to do. If investors get the impression that a great new product is in the works the price goes up. If the impression originates from something that an employee disclosed, say, in a forum, and subsequently the product fails to materialize or proves to be a flop the company might be in “big trouble”, whether inside trading has been involved or not.
There is also the problem that public disclosure (perhaps through this forum) of information that turns out to be false could be argued to be a fraudulent effort to manipulate the stock price. And if so, when it’s done by an employee at any level the company bears the responsibility.