Depends how it is done, but the people running large cap companies are smart enough to know how to stay within "legal" methods.
If my suspicion is correct about deal-making for this quarter (cannibalizing next quarter revenue) then that is not a crime by any means. Shady order booking is another possibility but again not unheard of and generally not a crime.
The cash flow/revenue direction is definitely strange though. As is the order sizes. The latter is definitely more fuel to the theory of quarter-stuffing, even one of the analysts inquired as to why there was an inverse balance in growth between mid and large deals.
You never know with large companies - that is the irony to it all. You never know how much a CEO is aware of, how much is going on below him, what the actual intent or motivations are, etc. But you really do need to pay attention to the basics no matter the noise - if there are a dozen indicators that contradict the end results then you know to be very concerned.
Think about it this way: Ask yourself what has changed about this company in the last quarter. Did the customers change? No. Did the market change? No. Did the products change? No. Did the hoards of management throughout the company suddenly change? No. Did the macro environment change? YES - for the worse. Did most other large caps miss and lower guidance? YES. Is Symantec a huge titanic that can suddenly change on a dime after 8 years of erratic and disappointing results in this kind of environment? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
The point being, the question that analysts should have asked on the call was a very simple one:
"Steve, can you explain exactly how it is the company managed to achieve the current results when the macro environment is declining and most other large cap techs are warning and lowering guidance? What exactly in Symantec suddenly changed to justify the results?"
They won't ask that question, you know why? Because it is one huge game the industry is all in on (corporations and wall street). It will be really interesting to see what happens tomorrow and why I am cautioning about believing what transpired today, and where things might be headed. This might be turning into a dangerous, fabricated momentum situation which is where the little investors historically get burned the worst.