Bad run for British corporations shows damage of crises


On this 236th Independence Day, who could resist?

A few years ago, names like British Petroleum, Barclay’s Bank, News Corp. and GlaxoSmithKline headlined Great Britain’s corporate elite. Today, fallen — though most jumped — from their respected perches, they’ve come to symbolize the debilitating effects of rampant crisis.

BP’s Gulf oil spill and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.’s spying scandal are well documented. GSK’s $3 billion fine for criminal charges stemming from selling some of its drugs for non-approved uses hit this week.

Now comes the resignation of Barclay’s CEO, Robert Diamond, and a Parliamentary investigation into how the bank’s traders may have manipulated and colluded in setting interest rates to benefit their paychecks while hurting consumers.

July 4 or not, certainly America’s corporate doghouse is full with a rogue’s gallery of fools and thieves. They range from Bernie Madoff, Adelphia, Enron, Halliburton and Walmart, to Worldcom and Tyco. We’re not singling out the British brethren, nor suggesting there is anything in the British character that leads to such messes. Diamond’s American, after all.

No, it’s more the aggregation of these major names and the apparent loss of ethical operating rules. It seems a search for a moral compass in these companies’ headquarters would never end. There are tens of thousands of companies around the world conducting business with the highest ethical and moral levels. But there are also clearly too many that don’t.

These self-induced crises become debilitating and in some cases fatal. News Corp. is in discussions about breaking up the company, with the criminally accused newspaper division falling away. BP still hasn’t recovered from the Gulf disaster, happy-sounding ads to the tune of “y’all come back now,” notwithstanding.

With the 24/7 news cycle and corporate watchdog web sites popping up like dandelions in spring, it’s hard not to pay attention to company wrongdoing.

Massive hits to reputation require measured, long-term responses. Diamond’s resignation — along with most of his corporate suite — starts the process. But corporate greed runs deep and the surgery needed to remove it demands a lengthy recovery time.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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