Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

All in favor of go-along corporate cultures at GM, B of A? Just nod

Somewhere in their quests to get big, and then to get even bigger, some of our best-recognized corporate citizens took a wrong turn.

They're still looking for their way back.

Some wags call giant corporations Too Big To Fail. Others brand them as Too Big To Manage. Those that have lost their way may best be known as Too Big To Function.

I'm talking here about General Motors and Bank of America. The two fading megabrands are now mired in almost a "Groundhog Day" of repeated corporate fumbles, poor ethical behavior and just plain bad execution.

Sound familiar?

Other U.S. companies are part of this dubious achievement club. JPMorgan Chase is one. But today let's focus on GM, now led by CEO Mary Barra, 52, and B of A, run by CEO Brian Moynihan, 54.

Fresh off huge recalls of its vehicles, GM faces public heat from its yearslong failures to own up to using a faulty ignition switch in cars that resulted in people's deaths.

And B of A, already fined billions by the feds, looks to be facing a $12 billion-plus penalty for packaging so many shoddily issued home mortgages into securities. When the housing market tanked, those investments lost much of their value, fueling the financial crisis of 2008.

GM and B of A have received massive federal aid. GM declared bankruptcy in 2009 before a taxpayer bailout.

"The same culture that led to the bankruptcy led to these (ignition switch) safety issues," Charles Elson, head of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, told the Wall Street Journal.

Elson. a former Stetson University Law School teacher in St. Petersburg, even questioned whether GM's corporate culture is worth saving.

And B of A? Like other big banking firms, it benefited from two federal bailouts during the financial crisis that totaled $45 billion. As if to affirm its ineptitude, the bank recently reported an accounting error that will produce an unanticipated $4 billion hit to its regulatory capital.

Both company cultures grew to reward shortcuts and discourage workers keen to keep their jobs from questioning bad decisions.

If one symbol helps capture the bureaucracy of companies too big and too bewildered in the economic headlights, it may be the "GM Nod." That phrase appears in the recent 325-page report detailing a three-month investigation of why GM took more than a decade to recall 2.59 million vehicles with potentially fatal flaws. The GM Nod happens when everyone in a company meeting agrees to take a proposed action without any intention of doing so.

This gesture is not to be confused with the "GM Salute" — also cited in the report — described as "a crossing of the arms and pointing outward toward others, indicating the responsibility belongs to someone else, not me."

Does this new breed of Yes Men lurk in the culture of too many U.S. companies?

Just nod.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Tampa lawyer gets 27 months in federal prison for insider trading

Tampa lawyer Walter "Chet’’ Little was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison for engaging in an insider trading scheme that reaped him and a friend profits totaling nearly $1 million.According to federal authorities, Little accessed comp...
Published: 02/23/18
More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

Three major companies — Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, and the cybersecurity giant Symantec — have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.Enterprise...
Published: 02/23/18
Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citigroup is preparing to issue $330 million in refunds after the bank discovered it had overcharged nearly 2 million credit card customers on their annual interest rates, a spokeswoman said Friday.The bank, which has about 150 million credit card ac...
Published: 02/23/18
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Published: 02/23/18
BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

Millions of BB&T customers were unable to access their accounts after a service outage which the bank blames on an equipment malfunction. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank posted a statement on its Twitter page saying the problem persiste...
Published: 02/23/18
Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG — Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows it’s a highly competitive field in Florida."Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 st...
Published: 02/23/18
Winn-Dixie sells 8 stores after report says owner could close 200 locations

Winn-Dixie sells 8 stores after report says owner could close 200 locations

A week after Bloomberg reported that Southeastern Grocers — the Jacksonville retailer that owns Winn-Dixie and other chains — could be closing up to 200 stores, the company announced it was selling off eight of its Louisiana locations.Texas’ Brooksh...
Published: 02/23/18