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Accountability and Rhetoric During a Crisis


Submitted By chisty2024
Words 15612
Pages 63
Accountability and Rhetoric during a Crisis: Walt Disney’s 1940 Letter to Stockholders
Abstract: In 1940, Walt Disney was faced with crafting a message of corporate accountability under duress. His company, the product of his creative genius, had been forced to submit to public accountability. It had a pressing need to raise preferred equity finance for a major expansion during a period of market uncertainty, war, and reported losses. This paper conducts a “close reading” of the “Letter to Stockholders” in Walt Disney Productions’ 1940 annual report, the first such letter signed by Walt Disney. The letter’s rhetorical features, including metaphor and ideology, are examined in the context of the times. What is revealed is an accountability document skillfully crafted with the exigencies faced by Disney’s company firmly in mind. The letter offers suggestive insight to the world as Disney made sense of it. The paper contributes to understanding the use of rhetoric by top management in activities related to aspects of financial accountability and reporting. It also helps to understand better a significant public persona of the 20th century, Walt Disnev.
Acknowledgment The authors wish to acknowledge the helpful comments of the reviewers.
Analysis of annual reports, including letters by CEOs to stockholders, has a long history in management and accounting literatures. Discourse by CEOs is important not only because of the power that corporate leaders wield in their own organizations, but also because of their political and cultural influence generally. Since such discourse may be viewed as a form of sense making [Weick, 1995], its study also has value because the CEO

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