WorldCom has hired APCO Worldwide to do damage control concerning the company's $3.8 billion accounting fraud reports PR Week. "The commitment initially was to being forthright, open and honest," APCO CEO Margery Kraus said referring to talks between WorldCom and APCO about a PR strategy before the crisis. "That commitment has certainly increased because that is an important way for the company to operate," Kraus said. According to PR Week, part of APCO's WorldCom strategy is "emphasizing that its current woes were the responsibility of the prior management team."
SatireWire.com has posted a couple of clever spoofs regarding the current wave of corporate fraud scandals. One story reports, "the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that corporate earnings statements should be protected as works of art, as they 'create something from nothing.'" Another states, "Band of Roving Chief Executives Spotted Miles from Mexican Border ...
Nichols/Dezenhall, a "brass-knuckled, Machiavellian" PR firm that specializes in attacking critics of its corporate clients, is profiled in the June 29 National Journal. "Corporations live in mortal terror of being seen as ungentle," says company founder Eric Dezenhall. "They live in fear of a nun with a guitar showing up at their annual meeting to protest something. But that nun isn't always innocent." Clients of Nichols/Dezenhall have included Motel 6, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, the American Chemistry Council, the Meat Industry Council, and Browning-Ferris Industries.
Behind the scenes of American politics, the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been quietly pulling the strings of state legislatures. "The organization's reach is impressive: More than one-third of state legislators are ALEC members, and about 100 hold senior leadership positions," writes Nick Penniman.
Martha Stewart's involvement in insider trading allegations may finally ring in corporate reforms, according to Kevin McCauley at O'Dwyer's PR Daily. "The names of Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), John Rigas (Adelphia Communications), Dave Komansky (Merrill Lynch) and Gary Winnick (Global Crossing) don't ring a bell to those who skip the financial pages when reading their morning papers," McCauley writes. "Martha Stewart. Ding dong. That's a bell-ringer. ...
"We've believed from the start that the perception of these negative items has been overstated," PR Week reports WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore telling shareholders at the company's June 14 annual meeting. "We must convince customers, employees, and investors of that fact." Sidgmore, who took the CEO job in April, was referring to WorldCom's growing debts, stock price plunge, and recent layoffs.
"Greenpeace, which is urging a boycott of ExxonMobil because of its anti-global warming treaty stance, has been sued by the energy giant in France for trademark infringement. That has provided a rich PR opportunity for the media savvy environmental group," O'Dwyer's PR reports. Greenpeace altered the Esso logo by replacing the "ss" with dollar signs. ExxonMobil says that the Greenpeace-altered logo resembles the insignia of the elite Nazi SS army and that it is a "repulsion." According to O'Dwyer's, ExxonMobil fears the E$$O logo "will drive consumers away from its brand."
The Canadian government, working closely with the biotech industry, is spending millions getting Canadians to accept genetically modified foods. Lyle Stewart describes the "spider's web of influence" that brings together the biotech and agri-food industries, large grocery distributors, the Hill & Knowlton PR firm, and industry-created front groups such as the Food Biotechnology Communications Network, and co-opted NGOs including the Consumers' Association of Canada.
"Phony earnings, inflated revenues, conflicted Wall Street analysts, directors asleep at the switch--this isn't just a few bad apples we're talking about here," writes Fortune magazine. "This, my friends, is a systemic breakdown. Nearly every known check on corporate behavior--moral, regulatory, you name it--fell by the wayside, replaced by the stupendous greed that marked the end of the bubble. And that has created a crisis of investor confidence the likes of which hasn't been seen since--well, since the Great Depression." And the crisis hasn't even peaked yet.