Being a Libor-Tease with the New York Times

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The PR Verdict: “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Department of Justice.

Don’t you hate a tease? The New York Times set the tone for this week’s Libor coverage with its weekend story that the Justice Department (and other regulators) is thinking about filing criminal charges against banks and individuals involved in Liborgate. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger case than Libor,” said one of the unnamed government officials. Golly! What’s next?

The news presumably sent a chill through banks and their senior management. We all know what happens when a firm faces criminal indictments: If true, things could get very ugly, and it’s normally over in a matter of hours. Just talk to Enron’s former auditors Arthur Andersen.

The Times article reported that the DoJ is building its case, though they hedged by saying this could take time. But since publication two days ago, the Libor waters have been further muddied. Did the Bank of England knowingly overlook rate fixing? And what did the US Federal Reserve know? Talking about a criminal prosecution, even unofficially to The New York Times, might have been a little premature. The facts are not so simple and there is enough blame to go around, including even possibly some regulators. In the end, the Justice Department may not be able to prosecute. That’s one story that won’t help the weakened PR image of law enforcement.

The PR Verdict:  “D” (It’s a Dud) for the Department of Justice. This might do more PR damage than good, if not followed through.

The PR Takeaway: Crying wolf messes with your PR. With a public increasingly incredulous that no big name is behind bars following the financial crisis, there is certainly PR mileage in saying”This time around, someone is going to stand trial.” But unless it’s a certainty, this is one headline that should have been delayed until a criminal prosecution was given the all clear. A disgruntled public, suspicious of the cozy relationship between regulators and Wall Street, might find yet again that hefty fines and civil charges are they only penatlies ultimately on offer. Failing to press charges won’t help the PR image of independent enforcement and regulation. Next time, why not pause before making the splashy unofficial announcement?

Is the Department of Justice being a big Libor-tease? Give us your PR Verdict!

Lunch with Werner Erhard: Why the Disappointment?

wernererhard24 171x300 Lunch with Werner Erhard:  Why the Disappointment?

PRVerdict: “C” for Werner Erhard.

Lunch with the famous Werner Erhard!  The founder of EST, Landmark Education and America’s most famous personal development guru just gave his first interview in many years.  His choice?  The Financial Times and Saturday’s “Lunch with the FT” slot,  written by the notoriously sharp Lucy Kellaway.  The purpose?  To discuss Erhard’s latest work, developed with Harvard economist Michael Jensen, about the nature of integrity and how it applies in the business world.  Erhard says expansively,  “I want people to know that most suffering in their lives is the product of out-of-integrity behavior”.

Kellaway in her write up veered between portraying Werhard as exhausting and draining and  then, most tellingly, a poor listener.  Mistakenly calling her “Suzie” during the interview Erhard introduced an exercise from one of his training sessions as the interview seemed to flag.  The result was more than a hint of irritation from his luncheon companion.

This was a tough lunch and probably better done as a team, with his associate Jensen on hand to have provided some balance.  Not only would it have reduced straying into Erhard’s checkered and much previously discussed personal history, but it may have served as a brake on Erhard using workshop techniques on a seemingly reluctant journalist .

The PR  Verdict:  “C” for Werner Erhard.  For a thought leader with much to say and contribute, this was a disappointment.  This interview got lost in distractions.

PR Takeaway:  Make your point by giving examples and make them easy.  This interview lacked solid illustrations as to how an absence of integrity was the genesis for some of the more recent seismic scandals to have hit the corporate world.  With Erhard’s colleague Michael Jensen, previously one of the more vocal advocates of aligning management interests with stock options, an analyisis of Enron, Tyco and the 2008 financial crisis might have been a good place to start.  It might also have postponed Erhard’s one-on-one workshop with Lucy Kellaway to a later date.

To read the interview click here

What your PR Verdict on Werner Erhard’s interview?

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