Right answer! – nothing except their ISIN (International Securities Identification Number)
It was Rolf-E. Breuercon who set the ball rolling for DeutscheBank with an inept interview that triggered a ten-year-long stint of legal battles. In the end the bank was near on a billion Euros poorer in hard cash and loss of image, not even counting legal fees.
Volkwagen’s cause, by contrast, was served by a CEO who with disarming naïveté made a great show of ‘open mouth insert both feet’ during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, plumbing unexplored depths of stupidity and gaucherie. It almost seemed that the higher you get on the salary scale, the more you tend to throw English overboard together with the instruction manual on how to turn the brain switch to the ‘on’ position before answering reporters’ questions.
“We didn’t lie. We didn’t understand the question “
“We had not the right interpretation of the American law “
was the truculent answer delivered by Volkswagen chief Matthias Müller when being questioned in a radio interview hosted by NPR (National Public Radio). If these were his own words he was badly out of line. If they were being fed to him, his choice of source was badly out of line.
When a CEO states that he didn’t understand a question that he gave an answer to, and forgets to get a clear grasp of the rules of compliance of a priority market before setting out to conquer it, the Supervisory Board ought to intervene to shield shareholders from further harm. Here’s hoping that the car manufacturer’s Supervisor Board makes great haste, much more than the bank did when it entrusted the flock to the safekeeping of the lone wolf.
Volkswagen’s skill in manoeuvring within scenarios of this kind leaves a lot to be desired. The Supervisory Board’s first move was to summon an extraordinary shareholders meeting for November 9, 2015. But then, the shareholders’ voting orientation seemed to be veering towards the unfavourable so the meeting was cancelled and the tribunal petitioned to appoint former CFO Hans Dieter Pötsch as new chair of the Supervisory Board. He seems to be above reproach but his involvement is considerable because of the ad hoc publication that constitutes the basis of the shareholders’ action.
I can already hear it (as rendered by Müller)
“We didn’t forget to disclose. We didn’t understand ad-hoc rules”
“we had not the right interpretation of German law”
The unobtrusive observer will woder how come? How come these people are on seven-figure salaries without ever having taken the time to read the German Civil Code? And what about this chairperson of the Supervisory Board, this irreproachable model of a durable conflict of interest, who will prep the CEO prior to being interviewed on the radio and debrief him afterwards. But what happens when a journalist from Bloomberg turns up at the front door with a bunch of awkward questions, like what happened to the bank. Perhaps the Supervisory Board would benefit from private tuition by Toshiba before lurching forwards with eyes wide shut just so as to complete the course. How about just setting up a common Supervisory Board for Toshiba and Volkswagen with the same members for both. That way, the hard knocks and waste of money would only happen once..