Announcing a Restaurant Closing

Danny Meyer gives us a great model of how to write a bad-news message. In his announcement about closing the restaurant North End Grill, Meyer demonstrates communicating with humility and transparency.

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Meyer describes the pain involved in closing a restaurant, including the effect on employees. He admits to mistakes and relates this closing to Tabla, which closed four years ago. He didn’t need to remind us, but he does so humbly, and as a lesson to learn from failure.

Meyer’s message is encouragement for compassionate, transparent communication planning:

All too often in our industry, a padlock on the front door might be the very first notice employees, landlords, and suppliers receive that a restaurant will be closing. 

He also teaches us that leading requires courage:

[W]hen reality dictates closing, we have a choice: to do so in secrecy and shame, or instead, with dignity, integrity, and pride.

Restaurant image source. Meyer image source.

Discussion:

  • Analyze Meyer’s full statement: audience, objectives, writing style, organization, etc. What works well, and what could be improved?

  • In what ways does Meyer’s statement illustrate vulnerability as a leadership strength?

Controversy About Wildfires

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As wildfires rage in California, let’s look at controversy about the cause. So far, fires have taken 31 lives, and more than 200 people are missing. Governor Jerry Brown requested federal aid.

In a tweet, President Trump blamed California for poor forest management. This drew a harsh response from the California Professional Firefighters association, which called the statement “dangerously wrong.” In a statement, the group defended state actions, firefighters, and victims:

“The president’s message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is Ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines.”

Later, the president tweeted a more compassionate message:

More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.

Discussion:

  • Analyze the California Professional Firefighters statement: audience, objectives, writing style, organization, etc. How well does the group defend its position?

  • How well does the statement illustrate principles of persuasion: logical argument, emotional appeal, and credibility?

  • Which leadership character dimensions does this situation illustrate?

Elementary Teachers Dress as Border Wall

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For Halloween, elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, wore costumes portraying parts of a border wall and depicting stereotypes of Mexicans. Pictures showing them smiling as a group with the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” were posted to a Facebook page.

The teachers dressed up during school hours, and parents alerted the school administrators to the problem. In addition to their complaints, 12 local advocacy organizations wrote a letter to the superintendent, including this statement:

“The intent or misjudgments of the individuals involved does not undo the trauma experienced by students, families and communities. The impact on these students does not stay only with them but has lasting effects beyond the school or classroom. We believe the school and classrooms have now become hostile environments that are not conducive to the education of the students.”

In response, the school district posted a statement on its website:

The events that took place at Heights Elementary School in Middleton on Halloween are disturbing and inappropriate. The teachers involved, as well as school administrative personnel, and the Middleton School District showed extremely poor judgment.

The messages conveyed are the antithesis of the beliefs and values of the Idaho Education Association and its dedicated members throughout the state.

The IEA and the Middleton Education Association stand ready, willing, and able to assist the district in providing diversity and cultural competency training for Middleton School District employees. As troubling as the situation is, it does provide us with an opportunity for education and growth so that people can be made more aware of how hurtful these kinds of insensitive behaviors can be.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the teachers’ costumes: harmless fun, insensitive, hurtful, or something else?

  • Assess the district’s statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How well does it achieve its purpose.

  • Write a better apology. How can you demonstrate humility and address concerns more specifically? Include consequences: what should the district do as a result?

Pope Francis's Letter

Pope Francis has joined the conversation about sexual abuse in the Catholic church after 1,000 victims and 300 perpetrators were identified by a grand jury investigation report in Pennsylvania. The report also revealed how the church systematically covered up the abuse over a 70-year period.

In an open letter, which is posted on Vatican News, expresses empathy early and often, for example, in this passage:

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.  We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.  

Pope Francis's letter follows one by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, when abuse in Ireland became widely known.

Discussion:

  • Compare the two letters. In what ways are they similar and different? How might the circumstance and timing affect each approach?
  • How is the letter organized? How would you describe the tone?
  • Which character dimensions does Pope Francis demonstrate in his letter?

 

Netflix Comms Officer Out After Using Racial Epithet

Jonathan Friedland, Netflix's chief communications officer, was fired after using the "N-word" at least twice at work. CEO Reed Hastings sent an email to employees explaining the situation:

“Several people afterwards told him how inappropriate and hurtful his use of the N-word was..."  “We hoped this was an awful anomaly never to be repeated.” “The second incident confirmed a deep lack of understanding, and convinced me to let Jonathan go now." "[I should]...have done more to use it as a learning moment for everyone at Netflix about how painful and ugly that word is, and that it should not be used.” “Depending on where you live or grew up in the world, understanding and sensitivities around the history and use of the N-word can vary.” “For nonblack people, the word should not be spoken as there is almost no context in which it is appropriate or constructive (even when singing a song or reading a script). There is not a way to neutralize the emotion and history behind the word in any context.”

The first incident was during a PR meeting on the topic of sensitive words. It's unclear when and how the word was used the second time.

For his part, Friedland apologized on Twitter.

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Discussion:

  • What's your view of the situation and Friedland's use of the word? Consider that we don't have all of the context.
  • Given what little we know, should Friedland have been fired?
  • How does this situation potentially demonstrate a lack of humility?

MSU's Denial as a Cultural Issue

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A Chronicle of Higher Ed article blames Michigan State University's ambitions and culture for their leaders' lack of response to years of sexual abuse on campus. More than 12 people knew of complaints against physician Larry Nassar, but the abuse continued for years.

Lou Anna K. Simon's leadership is questioned in the article. Although clearly a committed leader to the university, Simon is criticized for focusing so much on "two decades of status-climbing" that a culture of denying any wrongdoing evolved. One of the trustees summed up the issue in a letter and emphasized "We must embrace our obligation to apologize and offer justice."

Apologizing may be a sore subject for the trustees because Simon avoided it in the case of Larry Nassar's victims, according to the Chronicle article:

She talked about how “it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows.” She often used “regret,” “sympathize,” and “acknowledge” in her written statements, but not “apologize.” She emphasized that sexual assault is a societal problem, not a Michigan State one. She highlighted all of the steps the university had taken to prevent sexual misconduct.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Analyze the trustee's letter. What principles of business writing are followed? What are the strengths of the letter, and what could be improved?
  • The trustee encourages MSU leadership to listen. What does he mean by this, and how would listening help the situation?
  • What is the value of apologizing and admitting failure? What are the potential downsides, particularly for a university trying to improve its stature?
  • This story illustrates several failings of leadership character. Which can you identify, and which do you think are most relevant here?

MSNBC Correspondent Responds to Criticism

MSNBC Correspondent Joy Reid is trying to explain homophobic posts on her blog, which has been inactive for years:

"I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things ... But I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don't believe me."

Reid hired a security analyst to prove that her site had been hacked, saying that the breach was "part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.” But the investigation didn't uncover evidence. The hacking defense typically doesn't turn out well. Remember Amy's Baking Company in 2013?

On her show, "AM Joy,"  Reid apologized for past comments:

“I have not been exempt from being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I did it. And for that I am truly, truly sorry.”

A Mediaite story details Reid's previous posts:

“I look back today at some of the ways I’ve talked casually about people and gender identity and sexual orientation and I wonder who that even was. But the reality is that like a lot of people in this country, that person was me.”

A Vox article acknowledges that people's views, particularly of same-sex marriage, have changed. In the end, Reid spoke about her personal development:

“The person I am now is not the person I was then. I like to think I’ve gotten better as a person over time — that I’m still growing, that I’m not the same person I was 10 or five or even one year ago. And I know that my goal is to try to be a better person and a better ally.”

Discussion:

  • How could Reid have addressed the issue without the hacking defense?
  • Watch Reid's video apology. How well does she handle the situation?
  • People do change. Do you find Reid's comments sincere and believable? Why or why not?

 

More About the Starbucks Bias Situation

After the arrest of two black men in a Philadelphia store, Starbucks announced that 8,000 stores will close on May 29 for racial-bias training. But are some skeptical about the impact that one day of training will have, and the company seems to be imitating Chipotle's decision to close stores for food safety training. On the other hand, the company could have blamed the employee who called the police, a crisis communication strategy we have seem in many other situations. 

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An article in the New York Times describes racial bias research in hospitality customer service and may tell us more about the incident in Philadelphia. In one study, researchers sent emails to hotels using different names that reflected gender and race, asking for restaurant recommendations. Responses indicated racial bias, as the authors describe: "Hotel employees were significantly more likely to respond to inquiries from people who had typically white names than from those who had typically black and Asian names."

In addition, researchers analyzed "politeness," for example, whether employees wrote "best" or "sincerely" before signing their name. They were more likely to use such words when responding to guests with names that sounded white, and the authors describe another finding for this group: 

They were three times as likely to provide extra information — even when the initial inquiry was just about restaurants — to white than to black or Asian people.

In addition to training, the authors suggest periodic customer service audits and consistent scripts and policies.

In a turn, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross has apologized to the two men who were arrested. In his original video, Ross defended the officers actions and said, based on a sergeant's experience at Starbucks, "they are at least consistent in their policy." But in the news conference, Ross says, "shame on me" and "I have to do better." 

Image source.

Discussion: 

  • What's your view of the research about customer service at hotels? What does the research potentially say about the situation at Starbucks?
  • Have you experienced bias in a customer service setting? What was the situation, and how did you handle it? 
  • How well does Ross handle the apology in the news conference? How does his identity factor into his response? How does he demonstrate authenticity, vulnerability, and other leadership character dimensions?

Starbucks Apologizes, Again

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Two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks. Witnesses say they were just waiting for a friend and asked to use the restroom. The reason for calling the police seemed to be the same: that they were just waiting for friend. But because they didn't order anything, they were asked to leave and did not. Other customers say this is common at Starbucks, and the only reason the police were called was because the two men were black.

The company, at first, gave a weak apology using unclear pronoun references (see "this" and "these"). A longer apology came from the CEO Kevin Johnson later. In the statement, he identified steps the company would take and closed with this paragraph:

Finally, to our partners who proudly wear the green apron and to customers who come to us for a sense of community every day: You can and should expect more from us.  We will learn from this and be better.

Johnson also posted an apology video.

In a video statement, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross explained the situation from his point of view and defended the officers' actions. He also said that all officers get implicit bias training and gave an example of a police sergeant who was also denied access to a Starbucks bathroom. Ross's conclusion was that "they are at least consistent in their policy." Of course, not everyone agrees.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Analyze Johnson's statement. Who are his primary and secondary audiences? What are his communication objectives, and how well did he achieve them?
  • What organizational strategy does Johnson's statement illustrate? How do you assess his tone and writing style?
  • What is an unclear pronoun reference, and how are they used in the first apology?
  • What's your view of the situation? Did Starbucks do wrong? If so, at what point(s)? Are you boycotting Starbucks, as some promote, as a result?
  • Which leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this example?

"Nut Rage": The Sequel

You may remember the so-called "nut rage" incident at Korean Airlines in 2015, when a company executive became enraged about how macadamia nuts were served on a flight. Cho Hyun-ah, a daughter of the company chairman, threw a document at the head flight attendant, forced him to kneel and apologize, and ordered the plane back to the gate so the flight attendant could be removed. Cho didn't know that the rules had changed: nuts were served in the bag instead of on a plate, as she expected, because of nut allergies. In February of this year, a Washington Post article details how the flight attendant has suffered since the incident. 

At the same, people were incensed by what they considered entitlement of the chaebol families, who run Korea's powerful conglomerates. Some believe they act as if they are "above the law," and this situation was symbolic of that criticism. 

This week, Cho's younger sister, Hyun-min, is criticized for losing her temper during a marketing department meeting. Some say she threw water at an employee's face, but the airline reports that she threw it on the floor.

Either way, unlike her sister, Hyun-min immediately apologized via text message to the employee and on her personal Facebook page: “I apologize with my head down for my foolish and reckless behavior."

Discussion:

  • How else should the company respond to this incident? What should executives have learned from the 2015 situation? 
  • How could you relate this incident to communication and character issues such as civility in the workplace, conflict management, and humility? 

Volkswagen Replaces Chairman

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Three years after the emissions scandal, Volkswagen is replacing another chairman. Matthias Müller replaced Martin Winterkorn, who was ousted soon after the news broke in 2015. But Müller was another insider and hasn't led the turnaround the board expected.

Like Winterkorn, Müller struggled with public relations. During a 2016 NPR interview, Müller claimed the company misunderstood the American environmental law: “We didn’t lie. We didn’t understand the question [at] first.” After much criticism, VW’s communications department asked for another interview, which was granted. He delivered a better apology but blamed the first interview on “all these colleagues of yours and everybody shouting.” In other words, it was noisy. 

As is customary in corporate change announcements, Chairman of the Supervisory Board Hans Dieter Pötsch spoke positively about the outgoing executive:

“Matthias Müller has done outstanding work for the Volkswagen Group. He assumed the chairmanship of the Board of Management in the fall of 2015 when the Company faced the greatest challenge in its history. Not only did he safely navigate Volkswagen through that time; together with his team, he also fundamentally realigned the Group’s strategy, initiated cultural change and, with great personal commitment, made sure that the Volkswagen Group not just stayed on track but is now more robust than ever before. For that, he is due the thanks of the entire Company.”

The new chairman, Dr. Herbert Diess, offers more hope. Diess joined the board in 2015 and is known for having conflicts with the union and for cost-cutting. He may shake up the status quo at VW and inspire real action. The company has aggressive plans, including building greener cars—for real this time.

Image source (VW cover).
Image source (Diess).

Discussion:

  • Assess the company's statement about this change. Who are the primary and secondary audiences? What are the communication objectives? How well does the statement meet those objectives?
  • Why do these statements typically include positive quotes about outgoing executives, even if they are asked to leave or, as this statement indicates, they leave "by mutual agreement"?
  • What lessons do you think Volkswagen learned since the scandal?
  • Why would the board appoint someone who is considered divisive?

Nike Memo Describes Diversity Failings

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The head of HR at Nike wrote a memo describing how the company has not lived up to plans to promote women and people of color. Nike has been grappling with complaints about its "boys-club culture," and the memo may have worsened the situation.

When complaints surfaced, Chief Executive Mark Parker said, “When we discover issues, we take action. We are laser-focused on making Nike a more inclusive culture and accelerating diverse representation within our leadership teams."

Weeks later, HR Chief Monique Matheson wrote in the memo that the company wants to “to create a culture of true inclusion. As part of our plan, we need to improve representation of women and people of color.” She also wrote, “While we’ve spoken about this many times, and tried different ways to achieve change, we have failed to gain traction—and our hiring and promotion decisions are not changing senior-level representation as quickly as we have wanted."

Of Nike's 74,000 employees, only 29% of vice presidents are women and, in the U.S., only 16% are nonwhite. In the memo, Matheson also reported that men, women, and people of color earn about the same, although she acknowledged, "We’ve also heard from some of you that this result does not reflect your personal experience" and promised to do more research into pay equity.

Discussion:

  • How does the memo reflect both positively and negatively on Nike?
  • Should Matheson have avoided putting such information in a memo, knowing that it could be made public? Or, do you think she intended for it to go public?
  • How do executives balance internal communication and the possibility of messages being leaked to the press?
  • In what ways does this situation demonstrate vulnerability?

An Interview with Sheryl Sandberg

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During an interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg admitted mistakes and discussed plans for improving users' privacy. Sandberg didn't shy away from tough questions about Facebook's role in protecting users' information and admitted that the site had an important role during the 2016 presidential election, at least to get people to register to vote.

On whether Cambridge Analytica still has data, Sandberg admitted, "We were given assurances by them years ago that they deleted the data. We should’ve followed up. That’s on us. We are trying to do a forensic audit to find out what they have." She also said the company had "under-invested" in ways to protect users' information.

Viewers may notice that Sandberg repeatedly says versions of "That's a very good question." This could be a tactic to delay responding, or it could be that Woodruff asks good questions! Sandberg would be the first to acknowledge that many of the questions are ones the company leaders are asking themselves at this point. As pioneers, Facebook executives are reconsidering how people use the site and for what purpose.

Discussion:

  • Assess Sandberg's presentation skills. How well does she deliver her ideas and address questions?
  • What principles of persuasion does Sandberg demonstrate in the interview?
  • What else, if anything, could Sandberg have said during this interview to rebuild trust in the company?

Mario Batali Wants to Move On

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Is it too soon? Mario Batali, accused of sexual harassment and removed from the company bearing his name, is exploring a new venture. In December, reports of sexual misconduct rattled the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, and Batali admitted that accusations “match up with ways” he behaved. At the time, he emailed an apology but lost ground when he included a "P.S." with a recipe for making cinnamon rolls.

Now, about four months later, people report that Batali is exploring his options. Reports say he is considering moving to the Amalfi Coast, aiding displaced Rwandans, or creating a new company.

A New York Times article speculates that Batali may be in a good position to return to public life:

He still has legions of fans and colleagues who admire and respect his generosity, culinary knowledge and charisma. Many still post their interpretations of his recipes on Instagram, ask him for selfies on the street or urge his return to “The Chew” on Facebook. His restaurants continue to attract customers.

Friends also say that he is truly taking time to be introspective and to learn from his mistakes. But not everyone agrees that a comeback would be appreciated. Anthony Bourdain, for example, isn't ready:

Retire and count yourself lucky, I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What's your view? Is it too soon, or is the time right for a Batali return? What should he consider in making this decision? What are the potential implications for women who complained about his behavior and for the company?
  • Batali mentions wanting to understand his "blind spots." What does he mean by this?

How to Talk About Failure During an Interview

A new podcast, Change Agent, explores creative solutions to people's problems. In one episode, "Telling the Truth," a recovering alcoholic talks about her challenges during job interviews. Should she explain the gap in her resume?

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For help, the moderator looks to Domino's, which had notoriously bad reviews of its pizza. CEO J. Patrick Doyle explains how the company took an open approach to admitting failure. Doyle led a turnaround by running commercials admitting criticism about their pizza, for example, that the crust "tastes like cardboard." The results are documented in a Domino's video posted on YouTube.

The woman looking for a job was able to apply what she learned during a mock interview. Part of her recovery process is about being truthful, so was open to the strategy.

During the podcast, we hear the woman admitting her challenges, although she goes on longer than may be useful or appropriate during a job interview. Still, the interviewer reacted positively to her telling the truth.

Discussion:

  • What are the risks to admitting failure in this way?
  • How could you apply this strategy to your own job search? What failing or misstep could you explain in a way that demonstrates self-reflection and learning from failure?
  • In what ways does the podcast demonstrate authenticity and vulnerability? 

FB Admits Mistakes and Makes Promises

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After five days of silence, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is addressing new criticism about privacy issues. Recent reports describe how Cambridge Analytica used data from about 50 million FB users without their permission, possibly to influence voters during the 2016 presidential campaign. Although some users gave permission for their information to be shared, their "friends" didn't, and this gave developers enormous amount of data about people's preferences. In addition, Cambridge claimed it had deleted data in 2014, but new reports indicate it did not.

Now Zuckerberg is visible in the media and has issued a statement that included the company's responsibility and failings: 

We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.

He also told CNN, "I'm really sorry that this happened." He promised to limit developers' access to data in the future.

Facebook also published a full-page newspaper ad in the New York Times on March 25.

Discussion:

  • How does this situation represent issues of integrity and trust?
  • Read Zuckerberg's full statement. Which parts do you find most and least convincing?
  • How is the statement organized? Is this the best approach, or could other organizational strategies have worked better? 
  • Assess Zuckerberg's writing style. Which principles of business writing are followed, and which are not?

Stanford Event Criticized as "Too White and Too Male"

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The organizer of a history conference at Stanford admitted to having trouble identifying a more diverse panel of speakers. All 30 are white men.

Priya Satia, history professor at Stanford said, “Given how prevalent women are in the history department, you’d have to try really hard to come up with a roster of speakers that looks like that." Satia also leads the history department's diversity committee.

Referred to as a "conservative British historian" by the New York Times, Niall Ferguson says he invited women, but only one could attend. Ferguson also said, "We all agreed that we must redouble our efforts to represent diverse viewpoints in future conferences." 

Discussion:

  • What are some possible reasons for the lack of diversity?
  • Should Ferguson have done more to recruit women and people of color? How could he approach the conference planning differently?
  • What is Stanford's responsibility? I don't see a statement from the university.
  • In what ways does Ferguson demonstrate vulnerability, and in what ways does he fall short?

 

Toys R Us Closes

 https://www.toysrusinc.com/restructuring

https://www.toysrusinc.com/restructuring

Toys R Us will close its remaining 735 U.S. stores and will lay off about 33,000 employees around the country. The company tried to survive after a bankruptcy filing in 2017, but the retailer can't compete with large stores, such as Walmart, and online sellers, such as Amazon.

Critics say Toys R Us failed to generate excitement, as one analyst describes in The Washington Post article:

“The liquidation of Toys R Us is the unfortunate but inevitable conclusion of a retailer that lost its way. Even during recent store closeouts, Toys R Us failed to create any sense of excitement. The brand lost relevance, customers and ultimately sales.”

A professor of brand management echoed this theme:

“We know that customers are willing to pay more for an enjoyable experience — just look at the lines at Starbucks every day — but Toys R Us has failed to give us anything special or unique. You can find more zest for life in a Walgreens.”

New York Senator Chuck Schumer is asking for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure that customers aren't left "holding the bag" if they can't cash in or buy products with gift cards, particularly those recently received in December for Christmas.

Toys R Us has only a short statement on its website announcing the liquidation.

Discussion:

  • Should the company leaders say more about the decision? What else, if anything, could be included in the statement?
  • In addition to legal responsibilities, do company leaders have ethical responsibilities to make good on outstanding gift cards? Why or why not?
  • In what ways has the company failed to learn from failure?

 

Turnaround for Martin Shkreli

We see a different Martin Shkreli from the one criticized for smirking during a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill in 2016. Shkreli ran Turing Pharmaceuticals when the company was accused of raising drug prices 5,000% in 2015. At the time, he was only 28 years old and was called "the most hated man in America."

Last week, Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud committed while he was a hedge fund manager and while running another drug company, Retrophin.

Shkreli pleaded for leniency. According to a CNBC report, he "broke down in tears." Another  article summarizes his statements in court:  

"The one person to blame for me being here today is me," a choked-up Shkreli told a judge before she imposed the prison term in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

"Not the government. There is no conspiracy to take down Martin Shkreli."

"I took down Martin Shkreli with my disgraceful and shameful actions."

"This is my fault. I am no victim here," Shkreli said, before breaking down into tears as he promised not to let his lawyer Benjamin Brafman down in his efforts to contribute to society.

"Do not feel bad for me," Shkreli told a packed courtroom that included supporters and family members, many of whom had written letters asking Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to spare him from a harsh sentence.

And he had a message for the investors he duped: "I am terribly sorry I lost your trust. ... You deserve far better."

"I was never motivated by money," Shkreli said. "I wanted to grow my stature and my reputation."

"I am here because of my gross, stupid and negligent mistakes I made."

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Let's assume Shkreli's statements are sincere. How could you explain Shkreli's smirking in 2015 at such as serious hearing and his behavior more recently?
  • Do you believe Shkreli's statements are sincere? Why or why not?

 

NYT Learns from Failure

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The New York Times admitted a mistake: the paper failed to write obituaries for some extraordinary women:

Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, just over one in five of our subjects were female.

The paper has begun a collection of obits for people "who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked." Write-ups are available for 15 women, including Sylvia Plath, an accomplished poet who committed suicide; Margaret Abbott, the first woman to win an Olympics game; and Ida B. Wells, who fought racism and lynchings in the South in the 1890s.

Discussion: 

  • How well does The New York Times address the failure? 
  • Why are they writing these obituaries now? What are the arguments for the collection and against it?