Bankers attending IBC Informa's annual International Payments Conference in London last week fell foul of a hoax presentation from anti-corporate activists the Yesmen, posing as representatives from Dow Chemicals.
At the conference, 'Dow representative' Erastus Hamm unveiled Acceptable Risk, the Acceptable Risk Calculator, and the Acceptable Risk mascot - a life-sized golden skeleton named Gilda - to an audience of about 70 banking professionals.
Many of the bankers in attendance excitedly signed up for licenses for the Calculator, which was presented as a tool to help businesses scientifically determine the point where casualties start to cut into profit, while suggesting the best regions on earth to locate dangerous ventures. Others posed for pictures with Gilda, the skeleton.
During the speech, Hamm told the bankers how Acceptable Risk would have applied to some famous "skeletons in the closet" of big business, such as IBM's WWII sale of technology to the Nazis for use in identifying Jews and Dow's production of napalm and Agent Orange for use in Vietnam.
In an e-mail exchange with Finextra, a Yesmen spokesperson estimates that about 80% of the Informa audience "just sat through it as if it were nothing special. The comments we got afterwards ('refreshing', 'thank you', 'great show', 'do you do risk management too? we'd be very interested', etc) indicated a near-total complaisance, sadly."
In previous stunts, the Yesmen have successfully posed as representatives of the World Trade Organisation. They also got airtime on BBC World at the end of last year, again falsely representing Dow.
An IBC Informa spokesman says the company is "not in a position to comment" on the activist infiltration, although Finextra understands that the Yesmen were invited to participate in the conference after event organisers stumbled upon the group's dowethics.com Web address and mistook it for a genuine corporate site.
The full text of the speech, and photos from the conference, can be viewed at www.dowethics.com/risk