Recent congressional hearings surrounding several high-profile cases of corporate malfeasance have thrust three Chief Executive Officers into the media spotlight. Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, Heather Bresch of Mylan and John Stumpf of Wells Fargo have taken devastating hits from mainstream media about their alleged involvement in their company’s respective fraudulent or ethically questionable activities. Most CEOs of major corporations enjoy relative anonymity when it comes to media attention, but accusations of potentially scandalous actions succeed in putting executives on the public hot seat. We tracked Twitter mentions of the three CEOs who have been driving the majority of news about corporate greed – and it’s no surprise that overall volume in the past three months spiked as a result of amplified content from major news sources.
In investigating each executive individually, we broke down the most frequently used keywords in tweets relevant to each scandal. Mylan CEO Heather Bresch, who is accused of gouging prices on Epipens, tax dodging and questionable ethics around her parents involvement with the company, takes the brunt of negative sentiment, as the leader of a group of “feasting vultures.”
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who took a grilling from Senator Elizabeth Warren over his involvement in fraudulent cross-selling of accounts to inflate stock prices and his own wealth, has been judged by the Twitter public to be an insincere and “gutless” leader, ripe for comeuppance.
Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, a company accused of falsifying their innovative “ouchless” blood tests and mismanaging patients’ medical needs, got off the easiest over the past three months, likely because the scandal has been brewing the longest. Twitter users seemed fascinated by the “house of cards” that tumbled around Theranos as journalists exposed the company’s “ambitious scam.”
Most telling is the sentiment expressed by Twitter users about each executive. It’s clear that America has no further patience for the ongoing parade of corporate scandals involving financial institutions. John Stumpf’s appearance before Congress struck viewers as disingenuous and evasive – and Twitter users let him have it – venting their vitriol at a furious rate. Elizabeth Holmes’ negative sentiment was driven primarily by public reaction to a featured story in Vanity Fair magazine, while Heather Bresch escaped with the lowest negative sentiment because the public has conflicted emotions about the company’s product – which helps so many people, but costs so much.
Perhaps the best indicator of public sentiment is a quick look at some qualitative evidence. Below are three verbatim posts from Twitter users about the three executives in question. Each reveals the intensity of emotion the author feels – something that can’t be judged by a sentiment engine. Words like ’embarrassment,” “shame,” “castrate,” and “disgusting” are rooted in deep emotion and provide the best evidence of the true feelings of Twitter users when it comes to the continued corporate greed that permeates the United States.
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