Ex-Pimco CEO’s Op-Ed Fails to Create a Bond With Readers
Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of bond giant Pimco who pleaded guilty in the college-admissions bribery scandal, took an innovative crisis communications approach: Two days after being sentenced to nine months in prison, he published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Alas, it missed the mark.
The op-ed was an unusual move. Typically, a defendant such as Hodge is well advised to simply issue a statement abjectly apologizing; apologies can be an important part of crisis communications.
But what really tanked the endeavor was Hodge’s evasions and defensiveness. In other words, the problem wasn’t necessarily that he wrote an op-ed but the messages contained therein. Frankly, the piece comes off as someone trying to slide by without admitting guilt.
This is particularly sensitive in that so many people are angry about the scandal that broke last year. Rich and (some) famous parents got snagged paying bribes through an intermediary, Rick Singer, to get their kids into the right institutions of higher learning.
This man isn’t taking responsibility for his crimes.
— Commenter on the Wall Street Journal op-ed
In the op-ed entitled “I Wish I’d Never Met Rick Singer,” Hodge says, yes, he hired Singer “but I was certain that I had not committed any crime. I was wrong.”
It sounds like Hodge was confused. That may be because, according to Hodge, Singer passed himself off as just another consultant to the 1 percent. “Nothing he said suggested he would rely on deception and illicit payments to secure my child’s acceptance,” Hodge writes. This is hard to believe.
And then we get this revelation: “I was an easy mark.” Also, Singer’s mission was “only greed.” See? Hodge was the victim — not the schools or the students who didn’t get accepted because Hodge bought his kids’ way in (reportedly, five kids — that’s a long time to not figure out you’re part of a fraud). Hodge was only looking out for the best interests of his kids, he said.
Hodge’s “admissions” (pun intended) are begrudging: “But I also knew that Mr. Singer was providing my children with a false athletic brand” (one scam was to get non-athletic students in on their athleticism). “I looked the other way on questionable behavior that I never would have tolerated in my business career.” “Most perplexing is how I allowed myself to be taken in by Mr. Singer.”
The most straightforward Hodge gets is this sentence: “Today I realize that what I did was not only wrong but immoral, and it hurt others.” He can’t get himself to say “criminal.”Online comments to the op-ed were brutal. Examples:
“I am flummoxed as to why this was printed.”
“A little surprised WSJ ran this.”
“This man isn’t taking responsibility for his crimes. He’s trying to play dumb and blame it on Mr. Singer. Mr. Hodge, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”
Compare Hodge’s attempt to the apology of actress Felicity Huffman. She wrote, in part, about her decision to plead guilty in the scandal: “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.”
No evasions there.
Image Credit: Krasimira Nevenova/Shutterstock
This is an abridged version of an article that appeared today on the CrisisResponsePro paid subscription portal. (CrisisResponsePro subscribers can access the full version by clicking here. ID and password are required.) To take advantage of all of the content, data, and collaborative resources CrisisResponsePro has to offer, contact us at email@example.com.