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CEO’s lashing out at critics a no-go

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

If you’re going to defend yourself and your organization against carping ­­critics, build a strong case. Don’t just whine and complain.

Fed up with attacks from all sides—from aggrieved shareholders to regulators to politicians—Sergio Ermotti lashed out. He’s chief executive of UBS, a Swiss bank that has reported years of steep losses along with a taxpayer-funded bailout. It has also been embroiled in a series of scandals, ranging from rogue trading to currency manipulation.

“Life is hard enough, and I think this constant lecturing on ethics and on integrity by many stakeholders is probably the most frustrating part of the equation,” Ermotti said in an interview. “Because I don’t think there are many people who are perfect.”

Ermotti, 53, ignores a cardinal rule of mounting a public campaign to win hearts and minds: Present hard evidence to back up your claim. A “nobody’s perfect” defense is shaky at best.  

If Ermotti was trying to persuade regulators and central bankers to lighten up, he failed. One of them said, “Whether or not [the industry] thrives will rest on the efforts of individuals and organization to re-establish the system’s reputation for integrity.”

As a rule, lambasting those who call for increased ethics and integrity is a no-win strategy.

What’s worse, Ermotti essentially argued that other banks are just as bad.

“When I look around, I don’t think there are many banks that can come to us and say they are the example that should be followed,” he said.

— Adapted from “UBS Chief’s Plea: Stop ‘Lectur­­ing,’” David Enrich and Francesco Guerrera.

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