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Corporate scandals, environmental disasters and managers' rhetoric

Presented at the 'Humanities days' event, Lund University, 19-20 April 2013.
by

Matteo Fuoli

on 21 October 2013

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Transcript of Corporate scandals, environmental disasters and managers' rhetoric

“Just today, a stranger came to my door claiming he was here to unclog a bathroom drain. I let him into my house without verifying his identity. When he was done, I gave him a piece of paper that asked my bank to give him some money. He accepted it without a second glance. At no point did he attempt to take my possessions, and at no point did I attempt the same of him. In fact, neither of us worried that the other would. It’s what we call ‘trust’. Actually, it’s what we call ‘civilization’.”
(Schneier 2012: 1)
"Social life without trust would be intolerable and, most likely, quite impossible."

(Newton 2001: 202)
“The tragic accident in the Gulf of Mexico on 20 April 2010 cost 11 lives, leading to a major oil spill and
a widespread loss of trust
in BP.”

BP CEO Bob Dudley, 2011
Halliday's "language meta-functions"

Ideational
Interpersonal
Textual
Affect

I feel
shocked
and
embarrassed.
I’m
pretty sick
about it.

I am
so happy
that you like my work.
Evaluation

My husband runs his own business and is a
workaholic.

A couple of years ago, I had a
fascinating
conversation with Professor Max Clues on just this subject.
Epistemic modality

And that sort of worldwide sharing of information,
I am sure
, is going to grow.

Well,
perhaps
he is a little bit weird.
Personal pronouns

"We look forward to sharing
our
exciting future with
you
."

ConocoPhillips Annual Report 2011
Textual persona
Trustworthiness 'attributes'

Ability
Integrity
Benevolence

(Mayer et al. 1995)
Benevolence

Frequent affect expressions
tragic, shocked, great sadness, deeply sorry, grief, very close to my heart, with a heavy heart

Salutation
"Dear fellow shareholder"
Integrity

Epistemic modality/evidentiality
show, found, know, believe
a very very low probability event, the unthinkable

Evaluation:
dauntless spirit, clear priorities, renewed rigour
Ability

Downplayed: very few explicit positive assessments of BP's capabilities or performance
Can we really trust them?
Benevolence

First person personal pronouns

"
I
grew up in Mississippi, and spent summers with my family swimming and fishing in the Gulf.
I
know those beaches and waters well. When
I
heard about the accident
I
could immediately picture how it might affect the people who live and work along that coast."

BP CEO Bob Dudley, Letter to shareholders 2010
"ExxonMobil continues to deliver
superior long-term shareholder value
. We
succeed
by upholding the
values that set us apart
: a commitment to safety, operational excellence, and risk management; a disciplined, long-term approach to investing; and the development and application of advanced technology and innovation. "

ExxonMobil CEO, letter to shareholders 2010
Frequency of the word 'trust' in oil companies' 2010 reports
Full transcript