Two years ago, the News of the World was still one of the most successful publications in the UK. It was highly profitable, had a loyal and dedicated staff and nearly three million readers who went out to buy it every week. The innate strength of the brand was no match however for the phone tapping scandal which engulfed the newspaper in the summer of 2011 and forced its closure in a matter of weeks. The scandal has led to numerous resignations, arrests, charges and six figure out-of-court settlements, and had profound implications for its parent company News Corp. Twelve months later another British institution, Barclays, was at the centre of a scandal around the fixing of the Libor interest rate. The bank has now paid over more than 200 million Euros in fines to US authorities, and the controversy forced the resignation of senior staff, including its chief executive.
What connects these two scandals is at the root of both: staff wrongdoing that went both unchecked and, in places, was sanctioned or ignored at senior levels. They are extreme cases, but they do highlight the trend of recent years where individual actions or conduct by staff have prompted massive crises within their organisations.
When prevention is better than cure
Peter O’Brien joined Diageo Ireland in January 2009 as corporate relations director. In December 2012 Peter was promoted to corporate relations director for Diageo Western Europe, and holds overall responsibility for public affairs, media relations, employee communications, corporate citizenship and responsible drinking programmes throughout western Europe. Before joining Diageo, Peter was senior director for public affairs and communications in Wyeth Ireland. Peter’s career previously included seven years in public relations consultancy and 18 years in the public sector, most recently with Enterprise Ireland.