Be Careful When You Hit “Send”

November 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm Leave a comment

Volumes have been written about the importance of content and tone in electronic communications. The typing may be in haste but the thoughts are permanent because nothing ever dies on the Web. Immortality is guaranteed when The Wall Street Journal reprints your missives.

Such is the case with analyst John Kinnucan, featured in a WSJ story over the weekend about the huge inside trading case that the Federal Government is building. According to a subsequent article, Kinnucan was on his front porch with a glass of wine when two FBI agents pulled up, accused him of passing inside information, and threatened him with arrest unless he recorded conversations with his clients to help gather evidence against them. Kinnucan refused and later sent an e-mail to his clients:

Today two fresh faced eager beavers from the FBI showed up unannounced (obviously) on my doorstep thoroughly convinced that my clients have been trading on copious inside information…. We obviously beg to differ, so have therefore declined the young gentleman’s gracious offer to wear a wire and therefore ensnare you in their devious web.

Kinnucan claims that he is contractually required to notify clients of such contact with investigators. I doubt that his contracts stipulate taunting the Federal Government on the eve of an anticipated landmark prosecution.

Kinnucan says that he is innocent and does not deal in the type of non-public information that precipitates an insider trading case. He is obviously angry and upset, as anyone would be in his situation. He also says that his business has “imploded” following his new notoriety, another obvious consequence. The Feds may have put a scarlet letter on him, but he reapplied it with a paint roller thanks to his late-night e-mail.

Law enforcement is not always right or noble. Former DA Mike Nifong’s misconduct in the rape case against members of the Duke lacrosse team is an example. Fewer people than ever may expect the Federal Government to “do the right thing.” However, one institution held in even lower esteem is Wall Street. John Kinnucan may be based in Portland, Oregon, but he resides figuratively in lower Manhattan. In the end, his e-mail may elicit sympathy from peers and clients, but now it is grist for a national news story.

No matter how righteous John Kinnucan felt after his FBI encounter, it did not grant license for public arrogance. According to the WSJ article, he told the FBI agents on his porch that he wanted to talk to a lawyer. He should have also called a public relations specialist.


Entry filed under: Crisis Communications, Public Relations. Tags: , , , .

ROI U Involuntary Transparency

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