No matter what happens with the securities-fraud case against Goldman Sachs, the firm needs to concentrate on shoring up its tarnished image, two experts told CNBC.
“It’s not about the legal battle, in my view,” said Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business at Darmouth, who was a consultant for Goldman. “It’s a public relations battle—a battle for values.”
Edward Freeman, director of the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, agreed, He said it's especially important for Goldman since it has been known for years as having had the strongest values on Wall Street.
But Goldman's PR problems are shared by the rest of the business world, Freeman said.
“Business has acted as if it’s not a part of society," he explained. "It’s acted as if it’s its own institution disconnected from Main Street.”
As a result, Freeman said, business needs to improve the public's perception of its ethics.
“Until we can see business as embedded in society—as not only searching for profits but also searching for integrity and ethics and responsibility at the same time—we’re going to have another crisis like this one,” Freeman said.
Right now, integrity in business is considered a joke. “Tell someone you teach business ethics and they laugh,” Freeman said. “That’s the problem.”