JPMorgan Chase & Co., the target of at least eight Justice Department investigations, was mocked and taunted by Twitter users after asking followers to send questions to an executive using the hashtag #AskJPM.
The online forum, which the bank canceled late yesterday, was intended in part to give college students an opportunity to communicate directly with a senior executive, said Brian Marchiony, a spokesman for the New York-based company.
“#Badidea! Back to the drawing board,” the bank posted less than six hours after its original post, which drew more than 6,000 responses from users in that span, according to social media tracking service Topsy. The #AskJPM hashtag had more than 24,000 posts on Twitter as of 10 a.m. New York time, according to Topsy.
“If you’re in the banking industry with what’s happened over the last five years, it might not be a good idea to go out and solicit comments on social media,” said Brad Adgate, a senior vice president at marketing firm Horizon Media Inc. in New York. “They are paying all these fines and billions of dollars to the federal government. I question the timing of this.”
The “Snarkpocalypse,” as @ReformedBroker dubbed it, started after the company’s official Twitter account posted a call for questions at 1:26 p.m. in New York yesterday for investment bank Vice Chairman James Lee, using #AskJPM.
JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, has faced criminal probes including one into possible bribery in Asia and another examining its relationship with Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff. The firm has been negotiating an agreement with the U.S. to resolve multiple mortgage-bond probes, and two ex-employees were indicted for allegedly trying to cover up a record trading loss last year.
JPMorgan’s call for questions provoked jeers from Twitter users, who responded with sarcastic posts about the bank’s mounting legal woes.
“Can I have my house back?” @AdamColeman4 posted. “Is it true ‘JPM stands for ‘Just Pay More’?” asked @SconsetCapital.
“What’s your favorite type of whale?” wrote @ObsoleteDogma. JPMorgan’s record $6.2 billion loss tied to a derivatives position was built by a trader dubbed the London Whale because of the size of the bets.
JPMorgan managed through the financial crisis without posting a quarterly lost and was able to purchase Bear Stearns Cos. and assets of failed thrift Washington Mutual Inc. as they spiraled toward collapse.
“It is a jolt of reality, and the reality for JPMorgan is ugly,” said Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan. “The bank is highly visible and greatly disliked.”
Social media campaigns have backfired on other companies. Home Depot Inc. apologized this month and pulled a Twitter photo of three men drumming on some store buckets after consumers deemed it racist.
McDonald’s Corp. sponsored the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012, seeking positive responses about dining at its restaurants. Instead, respondents joked about obesity and dog food, and the firm halted the promotion less than two hours after it started.
In 2011, Qantas Airways Ltd. let consumers write about their dream in-flight experiences only to be swamped with thousands of negative posts about the airline after the carrier became embroiled in a labor dispute.
“Twitter is raw, uncontrolled, unfiltered reality, and when the reality is that lots of people loathe you, the tough Tweets are messages to which you should pay attention,” Gordon said.
–With assistance from Laura Marcinek, Michael J. Moore, Dakin Campbell, Hugh Son, Tara Lachapelle, Keri Geiger and Elizabeth Dexheimer in New York and Matthew Boyle in London.
Editors: Peter Eichenbaum, Steve Dickson