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巴克莱的危机公关

Shelley DuBois  2012年07月05日

巴克莱银行操纵利率的丑闻曝光后,为了平息舆论,公司董事长和CEO两位高管前后脚下台。不过,与未来可能出现的民事诉讼、股东及投资者的怒火和客户的觉醒相比,领导层的重新洗牌实在算不了什么。

    罗伯特•戴蒙德成为巴克莱(Barclays)的利率操纵丑闻的第二个牺牲品。今天之前,他还是这家银行的首席执行官,执掌帅印已达18个月之久。如今,他紧跟前任董事长马库斯•阿吉斯的脚步下台,后者昨天刚刚辞职。眼下,这家公司正在为阻止汹涌澎湃的负面新闻和负面商誉而努力,两位高管的下台正是其中一部分。

    实际上,这些行动或许真的能奏效。

    戴蒙德今天在其辞职信中写道:“巴克莱所受到的外界压力已经达到可能损害整个公司的程度,我不能坐视不管。”他认为,自己的离职可以给巴克莱以机会实施急需的补救措施。

    就像其它银行一样,巴克莱的问题的根源也许处于更深的层面。有证据表明巴克莱并不是唯一操纵利率的银行,这只是银行业普遍存在的腐败而已。短期内,解雇高管也许会缓解外界的压力。从公关的角度来看,这也是正确的行动,但并不能解决引发此种行为的银行业问题。

    巴克莱已经同意缴纳4.5亿美元罚款,公司被指控在2005到2009年间参与了操纵伦敦银行同业拆借利率(London interbank offered rate, Libor)。该利率是银行间相互借款的利率,每天上午伦敦时间11:10使用银行委员会递交的估计利率进行计算。

    就像其它银行一样,巴克莱是该委员会成员。6月29日的一份摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)分析报告指出:“由于是由银行共同制定利率,看起来任何一家银行都很难显著地影响LIBOR。”英国金融服务管理局(Financial Services Authority)正在调查总计18家银行,包括花旗(Citigroup)、苏格兰皇家银行(the Royal Bank of Scotland)和德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)。

    最初,戴蒙德选择的辩护说辞是:“又不是只有我们一家。”在解释阿吉斯的离职原因的声明中,戴蒙德说巴克莱只是为了和竞争者保持同步:“有关当局发现,巴克莱降低其递交的LIBOR估值,是为了在严重的市场压力下保护银行的名声免受负面炒作。关于巴克莱流动性的无端猜测是由于其递交的LIBOR估值高于其它银行。当时,巴克莱的观点就是,考虑到市场状况,其它银行的估值确实太低。”

    换句话说,巴克莱辩称其所作所为仅仅是为了生存。“是否有可能,某人跳出来坚持严格按规章办事?”高管猎头公司Wyatt & Jaffe总裁马克•谢斐反问。“当然可以…但这样的话,他能和谁竞争呢?”

    “人人都在这么做”的辩护听起来没什么说服力,但却有利于公关。首先,该银行让董事长做替罪羊,以保护首席执行官。然后,由于对公司的大量负面关注继续存在,罗伯特•戴蒙德不得不下台。这一招可能会转移对银行本身的负面关注。危机管理公司Levick Strategic Communications的执行副总裁基因•格拉堡斯基说:“你想想看,任何不能让人们联系到具体某个人的丑闻都很难让公众保持关注。”

    Robert Diamond has become the second casualty of Barclays' rate-fixing scandal. Until today, he was the CEO of the bank, a position he held for 18 months. He follows former chairman Marcus Agius, whose career at Barclays ended yesterday. Both high-level resignations were part of the bank's attempt to staunch a flood of bad press and bad will.

    The thing is the moves might do the trick.

    "The external pressure placed on Barclays (BCS) has reached a level that risks damaging the franchise -- I cannot let that happen," Bob Diamond wrote in his resignation letter today. His departure, he suggests, might give Barclays the chance to do some much-needed damage control.

    The roots of the problems at Barclays, and perhaps other banks, may go deeper. There's evidence that Barclays wasn't alone in fixing rates, but rather matching pace with this type of corruption in the industry at large. In the short-term, firing top executives may take some heat off of Barclays. From a PR standpoint, that's the right move. But it might not address the flaws in the industry that triggered this behavior.

    Barclays has agreed to pay $450 million to settle charges that, between 2005 and 2009, it was involved in manipulating the London interbank offered rate benchmark, or Libor, the interest rate banks use to borrow from one another. It is calculated every morning at around 11:10 a.m.Londontime, using estimated rates submitted from a panel of banks.

    Barclays is on the panel, but so are other banks. "It appears difficult for any one bank to influence LIBOR materially on its own as it is set by a panel of banks," said a Morgan Stanley analyst report from June 29. Britain's Financial Services Authority is investigating a total of 18 banks, including Citigroup (C), the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and Deutsche Bank (DB).

    At first, Diamond opted for a "we're not the only ones" defense. In a statement explaining Agius' departure, Diamond said that Barclays only trifled with the Libor to keep up with its competitors: "The authorities found that Barclays reduced its LIBOR submissions to protect the reputation of the bank from negative speculation during periods of acute market stress. The unwarranted speculation regarding Barclays liquidity was as a result of its LIBOR submissions being high relative to those of other banks. At the time, Barclays opinion was that those other banks' submissions were too low given market circumstances."

    In other words, Barclays argues that it did what it did to stay in the game. "Is it possible for someone to come along and insist on playing strictly by The Rules?" asks Mark Jaffe, president of executive search firm Wyatt & Jaffe, "certainly ... but who would that person play with?"

    The "others were doing it" defense might sound lame, but it makes for smart PR. At first, the bank made its chairman the fall guy and supported the CEO. Then, to divert the massive amount of negative attention still aimed at the company, Bob Diamond stepped out of the limelight. This could potentially divert negative attention away from the bank itself. "If you think about it, any scandal without a human face on it is very hard to fixate in the public's mind," says Gene Grabowski, executive vice president at Levick Strategic Communications.

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