In fairness, I think Piper or any other firm is allowed to release their research opinions to their clients whenever they want, i.e. before the public. That is what the clients are paying for. It's different than if someone had inside material information about the company.
That said, whatever those of us without advance notice of what analysts will say think of that kind of move, we do have the ability of trying to predict what analysts will do. Analysts need a story to sell their investors. IMHO, based on stuff in the 10-K and everything the company has been doing, along with the low stock price, it's easier to sell "upgrade" than "downgrade."