And what are the lessons for businesses in this sorry situation? There are at least three. First, reputation may be intangible, but it has a direct impact on the value of a business. Cutting ethical corners may have short-term financial benefits, but it can also do lasting harm to your business' bottom line. Consumers always prefer to do business with companies they trust. They'll walk away from businesses that seem too shady.
Second, no one is perfect, and even the best and brightest of us come up short from time to time. When mistakes happen, as they inevitably do, a sincere and timely public apology is called for. Delays and denials serve no positive purpose; they just give problems a chance to grow into disasters.
Third, the excellence of a business' products and services is what will best carry that business through harm to its reputation. A company with mediocre offerings may not outlive a public relations nightmare. When it comes to reputational injuries, the superstars are most likely to survive.