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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Chesapeake: CEO's departure reduces risk

C. HUYGENS - Wednesday, January 30, 2013
It bears repeating: Reputational value is how the markets reward or punish a company in ways that are either joyfully or painfully transparent on corporate financials.

Reputation is an expectation, some say confidence, in an outcome. Because of the outsized influence CEOs have on a company's direction, stakeholders often (reasonably) confuse a CEO's personal reputation with a company's reputation.

Risk, a threat to a desired outcome, is equally influenced by a CEO's action. Today's Bloomberg Businessweek reports that five-year credit-default swaps on the Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s (CHK) debt dropped 72.5 basis points to 391.9 basis points (15% reduction) as of 7:30 a.m. in New York after the company announced yesterday that Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon would retire. In other words, the chances of the firm defaulting on its debt is expected by investors to decrease with McClendon's retirement. All things being equal, that should translate into lower costs the next time Chesapeake rolls over its debt.

To understand how the expectations by other stakeholders -- customers, employees, vendors, equity investors, creditors, and regulators -- create or reduce value through behaviors that are equally transparent on corporate financials, read the new book, Reputation, Stock Price and You: Why the market rewards some companies and punishes others.

BP: Finger pointing

C. HUYGENS - Friday, April 29, 2011
On 21 April, BP sued Halliburton, Transocean, and Cameron International Over the Gulf Disaster – known in polite circles as the “ink in the drink.” It is a reputation story that is still unfolding. According to the NACD Director’s Daily and its summary of various news services,

"BP PLC said it had filed a lawsuit against Halliburton Co.," the Wall Street Journal (April 21, Chazan) reports, "claiming its 'misconduct' contributed to last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster that led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history." The lawsuit was filed on April 20, the first anniversary of the blowout on BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, that killed 11 men and destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig. Wednesday marked the expiration of a court-issued deadline to make filings preserving the right to sue companies involved in the spill. Halliburton designed the failed cement seal that experts believe permitted explosive gas to flow into the well and reach the rig. "Halliburton doesn't deny the seal failed," the Journal notes, "but argues BP should have run tests that would have revealed the problem." BP's says its lawsuit aims to hold Halliburton accountable for "improper conduct, errors and omissions, including fraud and concealment." Halliburton said it would "vigorously deny these claims."

Bloomberg (April 21) adds that the lawsuit comes shortly after BP filed suit against two other contractors, Transocean Ltd., the Deepwater Horizon's owner and operator, and Cameron International Corp., which manufactured a critical safety device known as a blowout preventer. According to BP's complaint, the former "breached its contractual duties, including failing to adequately maintain the rig and fix earlier engine problems and failing to train its crew and properly coordinate efforts to fight fires on the vessel." BP is suing Transocean for at least $40 billion in damages. Cameron, meanwhile, is being sued over allegations that its blowout-prevention equipment was a cause "in whole or in part" of the blowout and ensuing oil spill in the Gulf.

According to Reuters (April 21, Bergin), analysts said BP had little chance of winning the cases and was more likely trying to force the companies to settle. The wire service adds, "Management experts said pursuing the lawsuits could further damage BP's already battered reputation as well as reveal yet more embarrassing details of the way the disaster was handled."

Turning to the reputation metrics, the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index rankings for the respective firms is shown in the composite graph below. Most notable are the differences in both the magnitude and duration of the reputation depression associated with the same singular event -- the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon rig last year.

Turning now to the reputation derivatives, the velocity and vector values for the respective companies, the magnitudes and directions of reputation change over the trailing 6 months shows patterns suggesting that the expectations noted above are probably right -- BP's reputation will continue to be battered as long as this matter remains in circulation. Halliburton runs a close second with extraordinary volatility, but both TransOcean and Cooper Cameron are not showing currently any significant reputational wear and tear.

BP: Reputation restoration 101

C. HUYGENS - Sunday, October 03, 2010
It is hard to be describe the process of reputation restoration more concisely than this:

If we meet our obligations like we have been, then over time people will say – this was a good corporate citizen to respond to an accident that has been a wake-up call to the entire oil and gas industry. If we ensure this doesn't happen again then maybe we can restore our reputation in the US.

Bob Dudley, CEO, BP (NYSE:BP)
1 Oct 2010

To enumerate:
1. Acknowledge the problem and identify both the proximate and systemic cause(s)
2. Repair risky processes to mitigate the cause(s)
3. Raise the bar for the entire industry.

Yes, it's that simple. Now go execute. Not sure how? Then join the Society and become part of the premier global resource for professionals seeking enterprise-wide strategies that foster an ethical and innovative business culture, increase the quality, safety, sustainability and security of goods and services, and enhance reputations.

BP vs. TM: A tale of two reputations

Nir Kossovsky - Tuesday, June 01, 2010
When it comes to headline risk, loss of value surprises no one. But this Society has long advocated that among the benefits arising from superior intangible asset financial management is reputation resilience. In fact, it is one of the central themes in the Society’s recent book, Mission:Intangible. Managing risk and reputation to create enterprise value.

Reputation resilience is the benefit arising from having a company pre-position stores of goodwill on which it can draw when the headline crisis strikes. It means stakeholders will tend to feel a company’s pain and empathize rather than holding a company culpable.

Consider the remarkable reputational comeback of Toyota Motors (NYSE:TM). As shown in the first of two charts of the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index, Toyota’s ranking has zoomed back to the top of the automotive (motor vehicles) sector globally among its 35 peers from a start one year ago of 0.62. While it is currently underperforming the median of its 18peers in the automotive sector by 23% due to costs associated with its recent issues (and the subsequent pile on of litigators, regulators and mommy bloggers), its future prospects are good. Stakeholders are giving the company the benefit of the doubt in terms of pricing power, labor costs, credit costs and earnings multiples. Toyota built the capacity for reputational resilience over years of generally doing the right thing on six key fronts: ethics, innovation, quality, safety, sustainability, and security.

Now contrast Toyota with what we expect will be a long a steady reputation loss at BP (NYSE:BP). BP’s ranking has been sliding for the past year having started at the 87th percentile and finishing most recently at the 56th. BP, a firm that is no stranger to reputation issues, is currently underperforming its 51 peers in the integrated oil sector by 14% and, notwithstanding the bright colors of the chart, the future is not rosy.

Heads Up

1. Risk, governance, and compliance are the topics for this Friday’s Mission Intangible Monthly Briefing at 12h00 EDT. The program, titled Driving risk and reputation into the C-suite, is complimentary, and a sample download of a recent program is available to further pique your interest. For more information and registration, click here.

2. The book, Mission: Intangible is available from the Society and from other major online book retailers. The book is available in hardcover, softback and e-book versions. Society members benefit from a material discount if purchasing the book from the Society.

3. The Society will release next week regular data on the first-ever reputation composite index. Provided by Steel City Re, the data reportedly show that firms actively engaged in the process of reputation enhancement tend to outperform their peers. Spoiler alert: Since January 2005, the Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Composite Index of reputation rising stars has returned 18% while the S&P500 has lost 3%.

And of course, we extend to you an open invitation to join the Society as a full member; and to Link-In to the Society's regular chatter availabe conveniently through the Linked-In website and IAFS group membership. Join us.

BP: Oh no, not again

Nir Kossovsky - Monday, May 03, 2010
In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, “the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was 'Oh no, not again.' Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the Universe than we do now.”

We can reasonably assume that similar thoughts raced through the minds of BP (NYSE:BP) executives on 20 April as the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, caught fire, and sank. And while we are probably equally clueless about the nature of the Company, as are stakeholders who own its reputation, of this we can be certain: it is sinking.

As illustrated in the series of Steel City Re Corporate Reputation Index charts below, BP and the other firms associated with this safety and environmental disaster are experiencing an acceleration of a steady reputational decline. And as noted in the book, Mission Intangible and more recently in an article in CFO magazine, these declines are indications and warnings of an increased risk of a reputational event.

Not that BP is unaware. The New York Times quotes BP CEO Tony Hayward on Friday as saying, “Reputationally, and in every other way, we will be judged by the quality, intensity, speed and efficacy of our response.”

BP has blamed the rig’s owner and operator, Transocean (NYSE:RIG), for the accident. Further investigation is now suggesting that a drilling subcontractor, Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), may have failed to execute a critical task that prevents gas and oil from escaping from the well.

The process is called ‘cementing’ and it is challenging. A 2007 study by the U.S. Minerals Management Service found that cementing was the single most-important factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts in the Gulf of Mexico over a 14-year period. More recently, Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) has been accused of performing a poor cement job in the case of a major blowout in the Timor Sea off Australia last August. An investigation is under way.

As a case study of risk and reputation management, this has almost all the main elements. Consider the following:

1. Iconic brand, BP, working through subcontractors - a key source of risk (we explore this topic further this Friday, see below)
2. History of failures in managing the processes of assuring safety - a reputation lacking resilience 
3. Marketing campaign built around sustainability laid to waste by a massive oil spill - lack of authenticity

The LA Times notes in a story on 1 May that experts were cautious about attributing blame, pending what are expected to be lengthy investigations by Congress and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Coast Guard.

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity!

If the above issues pique your interest, here are several things you can do right now:

1. Register free of charge for the next IAFS Mission Intangible Monthly Briefing set for Friday 7 May at 12h00 EDT. The conversation will feature Scott Childers from Walt Disney and Bob Rittereiser from Zhi Verden on “Process-driven reputation risk in supply chains”
2. Purchase the book, Mission: Intangible. Managing risk and reputation to create enterprise value, at the IAFS Store (or any online book retailer) 
3. Become a member of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.
4. Join our community on Linked-In.

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