Then-New York Attorney General (now New York Governor) Eliot Spitzer and a host of media camp followers argued that they were making Wall Street safe for retail investors by cleaning up conflicts and restoring "the even playing field." Instead -- and not excusing the antics of Henry Blodget or Jack Grubman -- Spitzer succeeded in eliminating any economic basis for Wall Street sell-side research. Instead, research has increasingly migrated toward the kind of wholesale institutions that can afford it, notably the hedge funds.
The bottom line: Research goes to the highest bidder, meaning there's a more uneven playing field than ever before.
UPDATE: It's even spreading to hamburgers.