Isn’t it nice to know that hedge funder John Devaney, once ranked by Time magazine as one of the “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis” is back on track? Having lost over $650 million for investors, Saturday’s WSJ interviewed him about his new bounce back to half his $250 million peak.
Devaney conceded in the interview it was a rough couple of years. He discarded the $36 million jet, the $45 million art collection and the more modestly priced $10 million helicopter. While investors walked away with nothing, he reminds the WSJ he put in over $14 million of his own cash when the fund was crashing.
Presumably, the more serious aim of the interview was to confirm publicly his regulatory clean bill of health. Having emerged from multiple SEC investigations, the case against him has been closed with no finding of wrongdoing. Devaney confirms the SEC sent a “very nice letter thanking us for our cooperation.”
The PR Verdict : “C” for Devaney for setting the regulatory record straight. But failing to add anything resembling humbling wisdom or lessons learnt, means this PR exercise didn’t do what it set out to do.
PR Takeaway: Rebuilding trust requires more than simply saying the SEC didn’t catch anything. Making it clear a regulator has no enforcement action planned and no ongoing investigation is worth clarifying but how about adding some humility and personal learning? Devaney, at the age of 41, gave no insight as to how his own actions might have contributed to a 100% loss for investors. Next time a handful of personal observations, skilfully worded to avoid new legal liabilities, might minimize the nagging concern that this could all happen again. And just a tip, stay away from palm trees when being photographed. They send the wrong message when talking about other people’s money.
To read the WSJ article (for WSJ Subscribers) click here. What’s your PR Verdict on this comeback article?