Cookie Jar

Don't let greed turn you into a fat cat.

Don’t let greed turn
you into a fat cat.

Where there’s money, there’s temptation. Where there’s temptation, some people can’t resist.

It’s a tale as old as time, and it infects every industry and too many non-profits.

Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank are just the latest in a long string of institutions to be hammered in front-page headlines after being caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

What did they do? Wells agreed to pay a $185 million fine because employees felt they needed to create phony accounts to meet the bank’s aggressive sales quotas — or lose their jobs. Deutsche is resisting a proposed penalty of $14 billion for its role in gaming the market for toxic mortgages.

How should they be responding? Not the way they are.

From the public’s perspective, both seem more focused on insulating their executives and protecting their pocketbook, rather than with the negative impact on their reputation. This is a bigger problem for Wells because its large retail banking operation interacts directly with the public.

At stake is loss of consumer confidence. Once gone, it’s hard to rebuild. What’s needed is to reassure the public that the problem’s been fixed and won’t happen again.

Regardless of what the facts are, claiming that only low-level employees were guilty — and giving only them the ax — is perceived as cynical at best and untrue at worst. It’s certainly not reassuring.

For the public, the rule is simple: If the executives knew, they’re culpable. If they didn’t know, they should have — and that’s negligence. Either way, they should share the blame and the punishment would seem more sincere if heads rolled all the way up the chain of command.

Don’t prolong an issue. With every revelation about Wells’ high-pressure sales culture and Deutsche’s back-and-forth over penalties, a flurry of news stories will rehash the gritty details for anyone who might have missed them before. And each time, their reputation becomes more tarnished.

This is a bad concept, and clients usually get it instantly. Settle a matter quickly (and preferably behind the scenes), or suffer death by a thousand cuts.

“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.

You can reach Roger Gillott and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”


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