Corporate America's Good, Bad and the Ugly
Warren Buffet’s Investment Banking firm Berkshire Hathaway is today America’s most respected company in the latest Harris Polls, ahead of Johnson and Johnson, Google and 3M. Banking is about trust and though America’s big banks lost public trust and reputation in the aftermath of the housing mortgage and banking crisis, Buffet proved that his methods can still hold out against the tide.
The Harris Reputation Quotient has been evaluating the 60 most visible companies in corporate America since the last 11 years on the basis of six criteria, namely vision and leadership, financial performance, workplace environment, product and services, social responsibility and emotional appeal. It is basically a public perception index based on both performance as well as trust, that goes hand in hand in brand building.
At the other end of the spectrum (position 56 to 60) is the rogue Banker group, the highly profitable Goldman Sachs along with Citigroup, AIG, Fannie and Freddie, the companies considered by the common man as the Shylocks of the world. Considering that companies like Enron, Global Crossing, MCI, Anderson and Adelphia occupied the bottom five slots a decade ago the significance of Harris Reputation Quotient on a company’s long term standing and survival is not insignificant.
Amongst the two sectors that performed poorly in this years Harris poll were the pharmaceutical sector and the financial services sector. Eight out of 10 companies who American’s trusted least this year were Banking majors. AIG topped "the ugly corporate" list with 43% Americans saying that they would definitely not trust any product or service provided by the company, while Goldman Sachs and Fannie Mae followed closely behind with 40% people distrusting them.
The fact that Goldman Sachs is a top of the table advertiser and has powerful media managers and friends both in the old media, and at the regulators like the Fed and the CFTC, makes its low public trust indeed much more worrying. Especially because it exposed a ugly truth, that the most profitable US company with $13.4 billion annual profits, was the least trustworthy. This should be a signal to the Paulson’s and Freidman’s of the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and other friendly regulators, that close relations with the rogue Bankers may be ultimately prove to be against their interests.