BBC’s Nick Robinson calls it a “A Whitehall whodunit”, and the rest of the world is split between wanting to string up bank executives and wondering if a crime existed at all where Barclays’ worst ever PR nightmare unfolds. News today speaks of the bank’s brand, and Omnicom-owned PR consultancy Portland – the mouthpieces supposedly selected to iron out the banks path going forward. If BP oil and other Brit nightmares shed any guiding light here, somebody had better go full transparent.
Already, the shadowy involvement of this PR company stands to slant any public perception backward rather than forward in the wake of so many financial scandals. Just how come the beleagured bank has not come forth to announce their AOR or Portland, if in fact they are handling part of the response, is as mysterious as the whole Libor trading affair, especially for those without an advanced financial degree. Accused of manipulating the Libor interest rates index, a complex set of principles directed at what banks charge one another, the potential being many millions gained when the differentials are accounted. Fined in the hundreds of millions now, Barclays has a monumental mountain of negativity to overcome to stay afloat.
Both Barclays and Portland refused to comment on the nature of their relationship. Brunswick Group is supposed to be the bank’s City agency of record, but some suggest their role is in dealing with the investor relations fallout here. For those who do not remember, Brunswick was heavily involved in BP’s Deepwater Horizon debacle, so Barclays may have determined it unwise to lean heavily on Brunswick for this reason? And, Cicero won out on Barclays public affairs bid earlier in the year, so some are wondering under which shell the pea of PR expertness in damage control is – there has also been “no comment” from in house PR expert Giles Croot, formerly a director at Brunswick, or Stephen Doherty, the new media guru at Barclays.
Fallout from Barclays’ FSA fine caused the ultimate resignation of CEO Bob Diamond and COO Jerry del Missier, but it seems certain more heads will have to roll before this PR horror story blows over. Boston.com reported via AP on the probably upcoming interrogation of Bob Diamond before the House of Commons Treasury Committee, upcoming. The fact that Diamond has taken home in excess of £120 million over the last five years does not help matters, after all stepping down from your job as one of the richest men in the world is not seen by the average worker as any kind of punishment for malfeasance. It remains to be seen who, when, and how Barclays will deploy the concrete response to all the questions.