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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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Linking Enterprise Risks, Governance, and Reputation

C. HUYGENS - Sunday, November 05, 2017
“BP, Target and Volkswagen, (among others) have been prosecuted for various scandals and suffered financial and reputational damage…Ultimately, their failures can be attributed to poor governance and risk management…”

Read more in Risk Management Monitor.

Read more on Enterprise Risk Management

Further Evidencing the Value of Reputation Risk Mitigation

C. HUYGENS - Friday, September 29, 2017
Reputation risk costs mount. One CEO, six directors, 95% of directors' compensation etc. etc. Better to create value with an ethical story stakeholders understand and is completely credible. Reputation Assurance by Steel City Re, described as a warranty on governance, should be part of that story. More on VW: http://www.iafinance.org/mission-intangible?TagID=292804

"The costs of fixing and repurchasing diesel cars in the US had been unexpectedly high, VW said on Friday, sending its shares down almost 3 per cent. The diesel scandal, in which VW has admitted installing software to cheat emissions tests in up to 11m cars worldwide, has already cost the carmaker up to $24bn."

Read more in Financial Times

Reputation Risk Due to Ethical Controls Failure

C. HUYGENS - Monday, July 31, 2017
Germany's big three groups, Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, and VW units Porsche and Audi have been accused of holding secret meetings and colluding on technology. There are controls to prevent such ethical breaches. How can they fail?

“German managers are less aware of the financial consequences of wrongdoing than their US counterparts,” she says. There is less of a recognition that fines imposed by regulators for lawbreaking “can sometimes be so big they can ruin the company”.

Read more in the Financial Times.

How to Destroy a Company's Brand Name

C. HUYGENS - Sunday, May 07, 2017
#Reputation #Risk “Corporate names are resilient: when their images get damaged, a change of management or strategy will often revive their fortunes. But personal reputations are fragile: mess with them and it can be fatal,” wrote John Gapper for the Financial Times in August, 2016.

How is it some firms have been able to bounce back while others are unable to survive? Both the German car giant Volkswagen and South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung have been mired in controversy in recent times. VW is still dealing with its diesel emissions scandal, and Samsung has had to face overheating phone batteries. Yet both have put these corporate disasters behind them.

Others have not been as lucky.

Read more in the BBC News.

VW’s Reputation Crisis Likely to End Badly

C. HUYGENS - Monday, December 14, 2015
Generally, stakeholders will ultimately forgive point failures like an errant supplier for Toyota, or even a London Whale for JPMorgan Chase. They will be less forgiving if the failure appears to be evidence of a systemic failure engineered by directors and officers. Until culpability is assessed, however, directors and officers by default will be pummeled in the court of public opinion.

To put hard numbers around the volatility associated with presumed culpability and ultimate assignment, read more at Risk & Insurance and see the chart below. To understand how directors who are unjustly being accused of ineptitude can protect themselves, click here.

VW's Reputation Hinges on Quality of Governance

C. HUYGENS - Monday, September 28, 2015
The event the BBC’s Russel Hotten reports as being dubbed the “diesel dupe” is not a recent discovery. Notwithstanding the extraordinary attention it’s been receiving these past two weeks, as with most operational issues that blossom into full blown reputational value crises, there were risk signatures going back 15 months that something was amiss.

In 2014, the West Virginia University Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions was contracted by by nonprofit pollution control advocate International Council on Clean Transportation to measure emissions on three cars: a 2012 VW Jetta, a 2013 VW Passat and a BMW X5 SUV.

As reported by FOX, the “BMW passed, but the university found significantly higher emissions from the Volkswagens, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The university and the council reported their findings to the EPA and the California Air Resources Board in May 2014, but VW blamed the problem on technical issues and unexpected conditions.”

As we now understand, VW installed software that was supposed to adjust engine output to meet environmental standards when it detected the presence of an external monitoring device typically found in garage and in-door environments. The software did not recognize the monitoring tool used by the WVU lab which is designed to be used in road tests. The engine output was at variance with expected values.

Leading the project for the International Council on Clean Transportation that exposed the shenanigans at VW is an engineer with the improbable name of John German. As reported in the Guardian, German said of his research, “We really didn’t expect to find anything.”

Here’s how the BBC summarizes VW’s position.

The case against VW appears cast-iron. "We've totally screwed up," said VW America boss Michael Horn, while group chief executive Martin Winterkorn said his company had "broken the trust of our customers and the public". An internal inquiry has been launched.

With VW recalling almost 500,000 cars in the US alone, it has set aside €6.5bn (£4.7bn) to cover costs. But that's unlikely to be the end of the financial impact. The EPA has the power to fine a company up to $37,500 for each vehicle that breaches standards - a maximum fine of about $18bn.

Legal action from consumers and shareholders may follow, and there is speculation that the US Justice Department will launch a criminal probe.

Turning to the Reputational Value Metrics as reported by Consensiv based on data from Steel City Re, the indicators of reputational value, volatility, and loss indicate VW is NOT topping the charts in measures of reputational value impairment among the full range of stakeholders. Equity investors, of course, are the first to panic: they've shaved about 30% off the company’s market cap.

But is this a reputational crisis? No, or at least, not yet.  Right now, the indicators of reputational value suggest the Company is benefiting from its historic reputation of automotive engineering excellence reinforced by decisive crisis management action (not merely communications). That legacy of operational excellence, which has been understood and appreciated by myriad stakeholders for years, is providing reputational value resilience.

As for the future, as well appreciated by readers of Reputation, Stock Price and You, and as headlined in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the “financial, reputation hits to Volkswagen hinge on top execs' culpability.”

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