If any picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures are worth about 10-thousand words each. They are that telling because they make you wonder what this law firm and these employees were thinking.
Here’s the deal: The Buffalo, N.Y. Steven J. Baum law firm, which represents some of the biggest banks holding residential mortgages, dressed up as homeowners who’ve been foreclosed on. The pictures appear to mock homeowners in dire straights. The pictures were published by the New York Times just before Halloween. The photos were apparently taken last year during an in-office Halloween party.
When Joe Nocera, the New York Times columnist, called the law firm for comment, it gets interesting. Here’s what Joe Nocera wrote:
“When I called a press spokesman for Steven J. Baum to ask about the photographs, he sent me a statement a few hours later. ‘It has been suggested that some employees dress in … attire that mocks or attempts to belittle the plight of those who have lost their homes,’ the statement read. ‘Nothing could be further from the truth.’ It described this column as “another attempt by The New York Times to attack our firm and our work.'”
This is a PR nightmare for the law firm, despite the fact that good PR is clearly not their primary interest. They allowed, appear to have encouraged, employees to mock residents in dire straights. The law firm allowed pictures to be taken at the party. And when contacted by the columnist, they blamed the columnist.
Perhaps the law firm does not care about its image. But banks surely do.
The law firm is apparently good at what it does. But at what point does the law firm become a liability for the banks that are working really hard to improve their own image?
Are they not condoning the law firm’s behavior if they continue to do business with the law firm?
The law firm should really do a better job of explaining what the public is seeing in the pictures. If this not what it appears to be, then the law firm should explain it. But blaming the columnist, particularly when the pictures look so bad, really doesn’t make the law firm look good.