The phrase “reputational damage” has come to mean something very different in the last few years. And with good reason. Today, anyone can see who is tied to a company by reading comments on their social media accounts, visiting their website, or listening to what they have to say about that company on podcasts or talk shows. This is true not just for companies but also for investors.
If you don’t believe us then take a look at the recent example of Tencent Holdings Limited getting dumped by some big institutional investors because of Tencent’s reputation as a provider of gaming and social media services.
Investors base their decisions on many factors besides a company’s financials such as its reliability, trustworthiness and overall sentiment. In today’s world, there are more ways than ever before to share your opinion about companies than ever before too. It is no longer enough just to have a great product — you now need excellent customer service and support as well as impeccable operations and communications at every level of your organisation above and below the surface too if you want to avoid being tainted by reputational damage in the first place.
Tesla’s stock price has been quite volatile, and there have been periods where shareholders have dropped their shares. Some of the main reasons for this include critisisms about their ability to meet production and delivery targets for its vehicles as well as safety concerns about their vehicles. CEO Elon Musk’s controversial moments and statements have also caused reputational damage which has caused some investors to question his judgement and this has especially been the case with the recent Twitter takeover debacle.
Uber Technologies Inc
One of the main reasons was the company’s poor financial performance. Despite being one of the most valuable private companies in the world, Uber has never been profitable and has consistently lost money. This led to concerns about the company’s long-term viability and caused many investors to lose faith in the company. However another big reason for the decline in Uber’s stock price is the company’s reputational damage caused by a series of scandals and controversies. Uber has faced numerous accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination within the company, as well as criticism for its treatment of drivers. Additionally, the company has faced resistance from regulators and taxi companies in many cities around the world. All of these factors have contributed to a negative perception of the company among the public, which has made it difficult for Uber to attract new customers and investors.
Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of Google) was hit with an investigation by the US Senate over allegations that the company used a “scare tactic” to try to stop a government investigation into its data collection practices. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, wrote an open letter to the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai in which he said: “I am concerned that these practices may have violated federal and state laws prohibiting false advertising, fraudulent activities and deceptive business practices, as well as federal laws regarding the retention, compilation and disclosure of customer information.” The open letter came just days after the news broke that Alphabet had been dropped by the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock Inc. The company cited the investigation and the social media tactic as factors behind their decision.
Dell Inc. was one of the first tech companies to be hit with a significant amount of reputational damage to when the news came out that Michael Dell was a controlling shareholder of the company. In the eyes of many, he was trying to reclaim the “D” in the company’s name and create a new business entity with the CEO of the company who had fallen out with Michael Dell in the past. Dell Inc. was also one of the first tech companies to be served with a class action lawsuit in the US.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is the symbol of Wall Street’s recent reputation damage. The company has been hit with many public accusations of wrongdoing and bad behaviour in recent years. The most serious of these came from a whistleblower and former Goldman employee, who filed a suit against the company claiming that Goldman and two of its former employees had committed fraud by misleading investors about the health of a financial product called Abacus. In a similar vein, a former Goldman employee sued the company for wrongful termination over a $300 million derivatives deal she claims the company deceived her about.
JP Morgan Chase & Co.
JP Morgan Chase & Co., like Goldman Sachs, is a Wall Street giant. Unlike Goldman, however, it was not just the news about its business practices that caused reputational damage but also the personal actions of certain of its employees. The company was accused of putting its own employees at risk of financial harm by allegedly misusing customer information. It also put itself at risk of becoming the target of lawsuits when it was accused of racial discrimination,.
VMware, Inc. has been a regular target of online criticism for some time now. The most serious of these accusations related to a lawsuit that was filed against the company by a former employee. The suit was filed in California alleging that the company’s co-founder and former CEO Paul Maritz had engaged in fraud and financial impropriety. The lawsuit also accused Maritz of being an alcoholic and of sexually harassing his female employees. Maritz, who once held the title of the most powerful man on the planet, was later fired from the company after it was found that he had engaged in inappropriate behavior with more than one woman.
Facebook, Inc. aka Meta
While most people know about the reputational damage done to Facebook Inc. by the data scandal, few are aware that the damage hit the company much earlier than that. In fact, Facebook Inc. was damaged by a drunk college student who posted on the social media site while he was drunk. The post was deleted but not before it had been captured by other users and posted online. The company was also damaged by a group of researchers who created a computer program that allowed users to create fake accounts on the site. It is worth noting here that all of these factors combined to cause a drop in Facebook Inc.’s stock price of about $100 billion.
Apple Inc. has been a target of online criticism for years. The most serious of these came in a lawsuit filed against the company by the family of a man who had died after being diagnosed with a rare heart condition. The family’s attorney in the case claimed that Apple had “deliberately designed the iPhone to fail and trap customers with older devices in a perpetual upgrade cycle.” The family also claimed that Apple had failed to warn customers about the health hazards of using the phone’s USB port.
Boohoo UK Ltd
Boohoo’s reputational damage has been intertwined with concerns about the company’s business practices and labour conditions at its suppliers. In July 2020, a report by The Sunday Times alleged that workers at Boohoo’s supplier factories in the UK were being paid as little as £3.50 per hour and were working in unsafe conditions. The company’s shares dropped significantly following the publication of the report. Additionally, the company have been under investigation by the UK government over their supplier practices which could have also prompted investors to sell their shares.
Investors dumped Wirecard shares due to concerns about the company’s financial reporting and accounting practices. In June 2020, the Financial Times published a series of articles alleging that Wirecard had inflated its revenue and profits and had engaged in accounting fraud. Wirecard denied the allegations, but its shares dropped significantly in the wake of the reports. Additionally, Wirecard’s auditor, EY, found a 1.9 billion euro hole in the company’s accounts which also led to a drop in shares and a loss of investor confidence. Wirecard filed for insolvency in June 2020, which led to the company’s shares being delisted from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Reputational damage due to concerns about Luckin Coffee’s financial reporting and accounting practices caused investors to dump Luckin Coffee shares. In April 2020, Luckin Coffee announced that an internal investigation had uncovered fabricated transactions worth around 2.2 billion RMB ($310 million) for the financial year 2019. The company’s shares dropped significantly following the announcement, and its chief executive officer, chairman and chief operating officer all resigned. Additionally, the company was delisted from Nasdaq in November 2020, as the company and its auditor were facing investigations by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) over the scandal, which also led to loss of investor confidence.
Reputational damage happens when someone’s views about a company change due to the actions of other people. If you want to avoid damage to your reputation you need to make sure that you are doing all you can to keep it clean. This can be difficult in today’s world where social media posts, blog posts, and even business emails can be shared with the public. So the best way to avoid damage to your reputation is to make sure that you are communicating with your customers and clients openly and honestly.
See our ESG reports on the companies featured in this article:
– Uber ESG report
– Alphabet Inc ESG report
– Dell Inc ESG report
– Goldman Sachs ESG report