The Image of FHFA Lawsuit Against 17 Banks

(Note: as Bank of America is in the news for additional mortgage related lawsuits, we put in the frontline this analysis posted before)

The precedent post showed which banks are more present in the media in relation with the multibillion lawsuit of the US Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) against 17 major American and international banks.

Now we show results about the images portrayed by the media when covering the FHFA lawsuit.

This is a new tool of analysis that we present in this blog. It has been developped at our research center MRI Universidad de Navarra, and it has been applied to other studies.

Image analysis show striking results for media reputation analysis. All analysis presented in this reputation crisis blog is entirely based in news content analysis from newspapers. Image analysis is also based in newspapers articles. What we do here is to identify all photos used by the journalists to illustrate the news published about any kind of issue or event.

We collect all available photos used, and we regroup them into relevant categories. The final step is to present the results. We can show the numerical results or a graphical representation of it. The reputation collage is the resulting image emerging from all photos chosen by journalists.

This tool is probably very relevant in terms of reputation analysis. Appearing in the news in a reputation crisis may damage the media perception of the affected people, company or institution. This damage increases substantially if the news appearence is not recluded into the body of the article, but appears in the headlines. But it is probably even more damaging if the indicted actor appears in the photo illustrating the news article.

News photos are many times the result of a hard work of media professionals, as they are picked as means to show the “soul of the article”. In many cases, especially when dealing with reputation crisis or scandals, the image chosen come as a result of a journal editorial decision. The impact of a photo is many times stronger than the impact of the content of the text.

We present the result concerning images showed to explain the FHFA lawsuit. As explained in the precedent post, the case we analyze here is ver nice in terms of reputation analysis, as it concerns as much as 17 different companies. The journalist or the editor needs to take a choice if she wants to show the image of a particular bank. As explained, the bank appearing in the photo of news about the FHFA pays a hard price in terms of loss of media reputation, as it creates an association with misleading business behavior, linked to the present economic crisis suffered by many right now.

First reputation collage refers to photos used in news from US newspapers about FHFA lawsuit, published between September 1 and 7.

Main image reference is a picture of a bank. We have shown a unspecified bank image, but they refer all to specific companies. The next collage will show the details of which banks are chosen as examples in the news. Second image reference in importance are photos about the stock markets, normally showing distress and images of falling stock indexes. They are concentrated in news from Monday September 5, when sued banks suffered substantial losses in European markets (Labor Day in the United States). Third and fourth images used to explain the core of the news are images about housing foreclosures and about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We find also image references to experts/analysts, money, the justice and President Obama.

As announced, we show in the following reputation collage the images concerning the names of banks used in the photo news. This result is the key element concerning the measurement of the reputational impact of the current legal crisis experienced by sued banks. It also answers to the question of which among all banks is paying the reputation bill.

Our empirical answer is quite clear: the crisis is up to now being strongly associated to Bank of America, as it is by far the reference picked by journalists or newspaper’s editor to illustrate the lawsuit. Second bank in terms of presence in news photos is JPMorgan Chase. We find also a significative presence of images about Goldman Sachs. There are only marginal appearences of other banks: Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and First Horizon. Other banks do not even appear as photo news.

This clear result suggest a kind of Winner-take-all rule, that in the field of reputation crises becomes a curse: in a set of several affected companies by an scandal or a crisis, media tend to concentrate image attention to the one appearing as the most exposed to the scandal, in a disproportionate way compared to all other affected companies.

It is true that Bank of America has been sued by the largest amount of sellings to Fannie and Freddie. But while they support less than a third of all eventual sanctions linked to selling mortgage securities, it completely controls media choices as image to be shown to present the FHFA lawsuit news.

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