Not Ready For Warren: A Crisis Case Study

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“Gutless Leadership.” “Give back the money.” “You should resign!”

Clearly not ready for Elizabeth Warren’s candid style of highly-researched and fact-checked questions, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf not once took ownership of the actions of the $86 billion organization. Instead, he leaned on the same talking points time and again:

  • Cross-selling is shorthand for deepening relationships with clients.
  • My compensation is in our public filing.
  • The board will take care of that.

He should have been better prepared by his public relations agency. He should have given a sincere apology that showed his accountability and commitment to making sure the situation never happens again. But he wasn’t and he didn’t.

Whether Stumpf will be criminally investigated as Warren hopes or continues ‘business as usual’ as she predicts, the public spanking of Stumpf will live on in public relations lore as a case study in crisis unpreparedness.

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