In a feature article "Restoring Trust," PR Week talked to PR experts about restoring confidence in the business world. "American corporations have to understand that the best thing they can do right now is to communicate: completely, honestly, transparently, and often," Notre Dame University business professor James O'Rourke told PR Week. "If more CEOs sounded like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in their briefings, we'd all be better off. If things aren't good, say so and explain what you're going to do about it.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling for bioethics institutions and journals to disclose their financial relationships with the biotech industry. So far, the request has mostly fallen on deaf ears. "The industry's increasing recruitment of bioethicists has been widely debated, as has the scope of the contributions," notes Hal Cohen. "Most bioethics institutions don't publish such statistics, leaving the public to draw its own conclusions about conflicts of interest.
"For all the talk of corporate scandal, one leading proposal for change -- tightening the rules on stock options -- was brushed aside in Congress this week, thanks in part to a powerful business lobbying coalition that has long fought to protect these rich pay packages. ...
"Investors who have watched their nest eggs melt away would be shocked to know that former executives of companies involved in some of the USA's largest cases of corporate malfeasance -- Xerox, Waste Management and Sunbeam -- still serve as senior executives and directors at public companies," writes Matt Krantz. "Some even sit on audit committees, acting as watchdogs against accounting deceit. In one case, an ex-president's involvement with alleged fraud isn't even disclosed in his current employer's regulatory filings."
The news media have criticized the tangled finances of companies like Enron and WorldCom, but Howard Kurtz notes that many of them are engaged in similar deals themselves. For example:
If you think corporations are doing a bad job of disclosing their internal finances, what kind of job do you think they're doing of reporting on their public health, social and environmental impacts?
If you're having trouble keeping up with all the corporate scandals, CNN and Money Magazine have created a special web feature called "Fraud Inc." The White House has also launched a website meant to give the impression that the Bush Administration is taking a tough stance against corporate evildoers. The site highlights
According to Harold Evans, the real mystery surrounding the president's shady stock dealings with Harken Energy is "why the watchdog media didn't bark during the 2000 presidential election, when new unflattering evidence emerged in the month before the vote. ...
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."
Despite a complaint by Commercial Alert and threats of legal action from the Federal Trade Commission, most of the Web's largest search engines have not yet complied with federal requirements that they inform users about deceptive "pay for placement" deals that smuggle commercial placements into search results.