We carry out research into all aspects of reputation.
We produce academic papers, contribute to journals and business media, and publish case studies, some with teaching notes, as well as producing a termly in-house magazine.
- Reputation is relational: firms do not own their reputations – these are owned by others. Corporations and institutions can influence this, but they do not control it.
- Multiple reputations: organisations do not have a single reputation; they have a reputation for something with someone, which can mean several different, even competing, reputations. There is no single measure of reputation.
- Reputation intermediaries: reputations are influenced in different ways and to differing degrees by intermediaries, including the media, regulators, ratings agencies and professional advisers.
- The importance of reputation lies in its signalling power: in the absence of full information, it can create enduring - and distorted - perceptions.
Ethics and Law
Ethics and law of investment banking conflicts of interest
Rita Mota, Intesa Sanpaolo Research Fellow, with Alan Morrison, Professor of Law and Finance, and Bill Wilhelm, William G. Shenkir Eminent Scholar Professor at McIntire School of Commerce, is investigating the ethics and law of investment banking conflicts of interest.
Investment banking is an inherently conflicted business. For example, investment bankers sit between share issuers and share purchasers and have obligations to both parties. Furthermore, investment bankers have incentives to abuse their superior information to steer clients into profitable deals that may not represent the best possible value.
Historically, investment banker conflicts of interest were mitigated by reputational effects. An investment bank that ripped off a counterparty could expect its actions to become widely known; fear of the resultant loss of income would serve to keep the bank on the straight-and-narrow. Recent cases in the US courts appear to indicate that reputational incentives have become less effective in recent years.
Some commentators have argued that weakened concerns for reputation are evidence of moral malaise in the investment banking industry. A natural conclusion for those commentators is that policy makers should force investment bankers to avoid conflicts of interest. But such an approach would undermine investment banking activity, would be legally extremely hard to enforce, and would most likely do nothing to improve ethical standards.
This is a complex subject, as neither the definition of conflict nor the appropriate ethical standard for conflict management is clearly understood. We argue that, in this context, investment banking is best thought of as analogous to conflict mediation, as, for example, in labour negotiations and the resolution of international conflict. In this way we can attempt to clarify the role that the investment bankers assume and the ethical standard to which they should be held. Our work should lead to a better understanding of the ways in which legal standards, formal rules and reputational mechanisms interact, and affect ethical frameworks in the financial services industry.