[We’re pleased to welcome Rolf Brühl, Chair of Management Control at ECSP Europe School of Business. Brühl co-authored an article with Max Kury in the International Journal of Business Communication entitled “Rhetorical Tactics to Influence Responsibility Judgments: Account Giving in Banks Presidents’ Letters During the Financial Market Crisis.” Notes from Brühl:]
Reading the following quote from a leading bank, “We believe we have an affirmative responsibility to play an even bigger role in helping solve the economic, social and environmental challenges of the day” (JPMorgan Chase & Co., 2012), should make us curious about its sincerity. It is hard to find a bank website and not to read sentences like this introductory quotation. We seem to live in the era of corporate social responsibility, and to take responsibility is said to be an important cornerstone of a modern, ethical corporation.
However, do corporations really take full responsibility for their actions? Content analysis of presidents’ letters in the annual financial reports shows accounts as a rhetoric device directed to influence stakeholders in their responsibility judgment. Our results indicate that bank managers in the financial market crisis primarily use accounts which do not directly address responsibility.
This may inspire future research to have a closer look on account giving in the communication of companies if different layers of the responsibility pyramid are concerned (Carroll, 1991): economic, legal, moral responsibilities.