Comms failure added to Lehman Brothers' woes

Opinion Lack of communication at the highest level may have compounded bank's collapse.

Gone: Gowers quit last week
Gone: Gowers quit last week

The problems at Lehman Brothers were not helped by poor PR, according to senior agency figures who spoke to PRWeek yesterday.

Lehman's exclusion of key comms executives from board-level discussions played a role in Lehman's collapse, according to some. 'Failure to communicate was a serious issue,' said one MD. 'Internally people were very angry with management.'

With banks suffering on global stock exchanges, their survival depends on their reputations and avoiding losses of confidence. 'Market trust is critical,' a senior agency source said. 'Comms heads need to sit at the very highest level of the management committees, which didn't happen a decade ago.'

Lehman hired former FT editor Andrew Gowers in March 2006 to bolster its communications. But senior agency sources said that Gowers and the senior European banking executives had become frustrated that its US hub had failed to communicate effectively and that they were excluded from the decision-making processes.

However, others admitted that there were limits to what comms could achieve. 'If management makes mistakes and the company goes bust, there are few ways to smooth over the situation,' said one.

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