15 September, 2008

What's the Statute of Limitations on a Business Decision?

How long does a company have to be held responsible for associations?

It happens all of the time. A company makes an unpopular decision in the name of business. Someone gets bent out of shape over it, and calls for boycotts and protests.

Often, it is relatively insignificant, and blows over quickly. Many times, those who are offended have little to no impact on the bottom line for the company, so nothing really changes, except for a few chose to shop elsewhere. Which is our rights as consumers in a capitalist economy.

But every now and then, a decision is made that has lasting repercussions.

Recently, one such instance came to light. Allianz, a German-based insurance company that opperates globally, was bidding for the naming rights for the new football stadium being built in the Meadowlands, NJ. This stadium will be the new home for the NY Football Giants, and the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets starting in 2010. This deal was to be worth an estimated $30b annually.

The problem lies in Allianz's history. It seems that their client list included several Nazis as well as concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Reports also indicate that they refused to pay claims to Jewish customers.

The decision was made to end the negotiations when the company's history was made public by the New York Times, out of fear of offending the many Jews and Holocaust survivors in the NYC market.

I am in no way endorsing the practice of withholding claim payment based on anything other than legitimate business reasons, but when is enough enough?

Decisions made 50+ years ago don't necessarily reflect the company today. It's unlikely that there are many, if any, employees still employed by Allianz when the Auschwitz account was written.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, people need to be a little less easily offended, especially when no offense is intended.

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