Do the Right Thing
By Jeanne Fleming, Ph.D., and Leonard Schwarz

(MONEY Magazine) – Do I Owe My Brother-in-Law a "Cut" for a Hot Stock Tip?

Q I recently made $2,500 on a stock I bought on the recommendation of my wife's brother, whom I'll call Jack. Jack works for an ad agency, and everyone there is excited about this company's new product, for which they're developing a campaign. Jack didn't buy any stock himself because he and his wife are saving to make a down payment on a house. But now, ever since I told him about my success, he keeps asking for his "cut." Do I owe him one?

Answer First of all, we're assuming that Jack did not provide you with inside information. Trading on the basis of information not available to the public is illegal. If that's what happened here, you should be contacting a lawyer, not writing to ethics columnists.

Assuming Jack was not an insider, he could have bought a small stake himself if he liked the stock so much. Sure, he'd be taking some risk. But that's how you make money in the stock market: by taking risk, not by staking a claim to a piece of the profits of someone else who did. This is not to criticize Jack for his unwillingness to risk part of the family nest egg--far from it. But since you alone put up the money for the stock and you alone took the risk of losing it, you alone are entitled to the profit.

While Jack is wrong to expect a cut, he does deserve your thanks for a good lead. To show your appreciation, buy him a couple of bottles of nice wine or something comparable. If he continues to pester you for that cut, ask Jack what percent of your losses he was prepared to make up had the stock gone south.

How Generous Must Friends Be to Friends?

Q Our close friends own a vacation home and often invite us to be their guests during the summer. Recently we asked if our family could use the house occasionally for ski weekends in the winter, when they are rarely there. We promised to pay our share of the utilities and take care of the house. But they said no. Are we wrong to feel they've betrayed our friendship?

Answer Pay your share of the utilities? Come on! How would you like it if your friends assumed your car was available for their use whenever you weren't driving it and felt virtuous for offering to replace the gas? Kids might think that way, but adults have an obligation to understand what cars--and second homes--really cost to operate.

Moreover, there's a basic principle you've lost sight of: Yes, everyone has a right to expect generosity from their friends. But we don't have the right to dictate the terms of that generosity. Your friends have, for many summers, made you welcome at their place. Whatever their reasons for declining your request--privacy, wear and tear, or perhaps just the aggravation of having to pay someone to plow the driveway--they've done nothing wrong. So relax, you haven't been betrayed.