Barclays CEO Admits He Was Dazzled by Diamond

 Barclays CEO Admits He Was Dazzled by Diamond

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Martin Taylor, former CEO of Barclays.

What to make of the recent mea culpa from Martin Taylor, the former CEO of Barclays? The Financial Times published his opinion piece, provocatively entitled  “I Too Fell for the Diamond Myth,” in which he describes his time as CEO of Barclays during the late 1990s.  Back then, Bob Diamond was running Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm, and reported to Taylor. Judging from the article, we can safely assume they don’t exchange holiday cards.

Taylor gives an insider’s view of boardroom dysfunction and a deliberate effort by traders within Barclays Capital to work around trading limits. The traders exposed the firm to massive risks by window dressing and reclassifying bets to get them past agreed internal controls. This was the late ’90s, after all.

Russia subsequently defaulted, and the markets went into freefall. Describing Barclays’ experience as “worse than most,” Taylor says the “failure to respect the internal control system” precipitated the fire sale of key assets. Traders were dismissed, and Diamond maintained that he had known nothing. Diamond offered to resign, but Taylor, concluding that the business was still in its infancy, said his direct report should stay. Taylor concludes by saying, “I deserve blame for being among the first to succumb to the myth of Diamond’s indispensability.” Ouch!

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Martin Taylor. After more than a decade, he has come clean with some insight. Trouble is, we’re still missing some basic information.

The PR Takeaway: Personal reflection wins people over, but ignoring key questions undoes the gain. If Bob Diamond wasn’t asked to leave, was he at least given a zero bonus for the year? Was anything else done to send home the message that the CEO running the business had bottom line responsibility? Without a full explanation, it’s hard to get past the sneaking suspicion that Taylor’s mea culpa might have been more of an effort to rewrite history than a more profound and insightful contribution.

Is Taylor’s article an explanation, or an excuse? Give us your PR Verdict!

Is Gordon Gekko The Right Man For The Job?

gordongekko3 Is Gordon Gekko The Right Man For The Job?

The PR Verdict: “A” for a launch that wouldn’t normally generate this much attention.

The FBI isn’t normally associated with successful product launches but it seems to have outdone itself with the use of the classic PR strategy: the celebrity spokesman.

Yesterday’s media was saturated with the news that actor Michael Douglas has been enlisted to deter securities fraud and step up snitching on insider trading. The campaign, including public service announcements, has the former Wall Street Gordon Gekko, warning that “the movie was fiction but the problem is real.”

The FBI got the placement they needed. Front page of the WSJ, extensive coverage in the financial media and saturation in the social media space. The launch was topped off with an announcement that the FBI is actively building cases against 120 individuals.  It seems the snitch hotline is working.

The PR Verdict: “A” for a launch that wouldn’t normally generate this much attention.  From content, to placement, to the call-to-action (snitch on insider traders), the message was clear and unequivocal.

There is something compellingly ironic about Michael Douglas being the key spokesperson against Wall Street foul play.  In press interviews around the launch, Douglas mentioned that since the film originally came out, bankers and traders continue to walk up to him in Manhattan and congratulate him as Gordon Gekko, like a modern day hero. Douglas said he is still surprised by their reaction. Don’t they realise Gekko was the villain in the movie? The campaign couldn’t be coming at a better time.

To read more about the FBI program click here and to see Michael Douglas in public service click here.