|Sometimes, brilliant people do painfully dumb things.
“They’re too smart for their own good,” as the old saying goes.
We live in an age dominated by social media and 24-hour news.
That means tweets, posts and shares can instantly go viral. In turn, a gaffe or flawed response from even the smartest person can quickly become a public relations nightmare.
And often, investors end up bearing the brunt of it.
Silicon Valley’s “rock star” CEOs have emerged as the poster children for “foot in mouth” leadership gaffes. Offhand – and often stupid – utterances by these leaders can impact stock prices and stockholders.
In 2009, then Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt said with all sincerity on CNBC that, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
This was his attempt to swat away growing privacy concerns about Google. The search engine holds a treasure-trove of data on users – from fetishes to funguses. And Google will gladly share this data with anyone for a price.
In 2015, weeks before the IPO for Match Group (Nasdaq: MTCH) – the parent company of dating app Tinder, among others – CEO Sean Rad made several cringeworthy remarks… the contents of which we shouldn’t publish here.
In response, Match immediately released a filing with the SEC saying Rad didn’t speak for the company.
But two recent headline-making events had investors yelling, “This is exactly why these guys shouldn’t be CEOs!”
At the top of the list is the data scandal surrounding Facebook (Nasdaq: FB).
Initially, concerns were met with a nonchalant response from the 33-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
To him, it appeared Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of 87 million users’ data wasn’t that big of a deal.
After days of remaining mum on the ordeal, the company was eventually forced to release the Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg robots for an apology tour.
As public outrage bloomed, Facebook quickly rolled out a litany of new tools and settings that let users see how their personal data is accessed and by which advertisers.
The backlash led to a very public Congressional hearing that relieved investors because it showed that since Congress didn’t really understand the situation, any new regulations would likely be minimal.
Now Facebook has slowly slipped back out of the spotlight as public enemy No. 1… but not before a slew of social media and tech CEOs took to ragging on the company.