Awkward!

7 Famous CEO Grillings: Bob Diamond, Rupert Murdoch & More (Photos)

Barclays CEO Bob Diamond faced a tough crowd in front of Parliament last week. See more uncomfortable testimonies.

Clockwise from top left: Landov; AP; Getty; Getty

Clockwise from top left: Landov; AP; Getty; Getty

7 Infamous CEO Grillings

Barclays CEO Bob Diamond faced a tough crowd in front of Parliament last week. From BP’s Tony Hayward to JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimond, see more uncomfortable executive testimonies.

Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Bob Diamond (Barclays)

The Massachusetts-born former CEO of Barclays did not attend a Fourth of July barbecue, but he still ended up on being roasted on a spit earlier this month. The dual citizen had been called to testify in front of the U.K. Parliament to explain his bank’s role in the ever-widening interest-rate-fixing scandal engulfing the financial services industry. Diamond apologized, said “I love Barclays” at least four times, and defended himself against the parries of M.P.s out to get to the truth of the matter—and to have their constituents see them take on the disgraced former chief executive.

John Duricka / AP Photo

Tobacco CEOs

Perhaps the most infamous corporate testimony came from the CEOs of the seven major tobacco companies in 1994. The hearing was the first time the chief executives of America’s tobacco companies had been called to testify in front of Congress together. In front of a subcommittee chaired by California Rep. Henry Waxman, all seven said that they did not believe nicotine to be addictive. Over the next three years, those companies would face a raft of lawsuits from states seeking to recoup Medicaid expenses from treating tobacco-caused illnesses. All seven CEOs were investigated by Justice Department for perjury following the hearing, and they all left the industry by 1996.

Mark Wilson, Newsmakers / Getty Images

Masatoshi Ono (Bridgestone/Firestone)

In the summer and fall of 2000, the dangers of Ford’s popular SUV, the Explorer, engulfed the American automaker. The controversy soon turned into a dispute between Ford and tire-maker Bridgestone/Firestone. Congressional hearings followed, and the Japanese CEO Masatoshi Ono went before Congress in September, delivering his prepared remarks in English, but answering questions through a translator. Ono apologized for deaths due to his company’s tires blowing out and would resign a month later.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Auto CEOs

When the CEOs of the three major American auto companies came to Congress in November of 2008, two of them came begging. But unlike most supplicants, they arrived to their potential patron’s doorstep by way of private jet. The three CEOs, Alan Mulally of Ford, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler, and Richard Wagoner of GM, came to Washington to answer questions and solicit congressional support for a $25 billion loan to keep GM and Chrysler afloat. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) described the scene as “almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious.” Eventually, Chrysler and General Motors would receive tens of billions of dollars in government support and stave off liquidation. Wagoner and Nardelli, however, would lose their jobs.

Rod Lamkey Jr., AFP / Getty Images

Tony Hayward (BP)

BP CEO Tony Hayward’s performance following the 2010 Gulf oil spill plumbed new lows in corporate crisis management. More than a month after the spill began in late April, Hayward infamously said, “I'd like my life back” in the course of apologizing to Gulf residents. Two weeks later, the British executive appeared in front of the House of Representatives to face the collective wrath of American lawmakers. Democrats and Republicans alike criticized Hayward and his company. Phil Gingrey, a Georgia Republican, said Hayward was “copping out,” and Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, said he was “thoroughly disgusted” with Hayward’s “insulting our intelligence.” BP would end up paying out tens of billions of dollars in fines and damages, and Hayward would resign in July.  

Reuters / Landov

Rupert Murdoch (News Corp.)

When Rupert Murdoch testified in front of a parliamentary committee at the height of last summer's phone-hacking scandal, he seemed sleepy. "This is the most humble day of my life," he said, before ceding much of the legal wiggling to his son James. The hearing was spiced up considerably when a protester tried to lob a shaving-cream pie at the News Corp. chief, before being intercepted by a swift jab from the mogul’s wife, Wendi Deng. The altercation made Deng an overnight celebrity, and didn't just save her husband from an unfortunate creaming. After the incident the ministers took off the heat, and began congratulating Murdoch for his “guts and leadership.”

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Jon Corzine (MF Global)

On Halloween of 2011 the brokerage firm MF Global filed for bankruptcy. Five weeks later, the former Goldman Sachs CEO, senator from New Jersey, and governor testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee (they regulate commodities futures) to explain what happened to $1.2 billion in clients’ funds that went missing right before the company’s bankruptcy. In his prepared statement Corzine said that he “simply [did] not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date.” By April the trustee responsible for locating the missing cash found most of it scattered across various financial institutions and an MF Global subsidiary.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan)

Following a massive trading loss in the bank’s London office (perhaps some $9 billion), JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon testified in both the Senate and House to face questions on his firm’s risk management, potential banking regulations, and, oddly enough, the fiscal condition of the U.S. government. In front of the House financial-services committee, Dimon denied misleading investors in April when he referred to news reports of the giant trading position as a “tempest in a teapot,” saying that he did not know the full magnitude of the trading loss until late that month. The two sessions of tough questioning cemented Dimon’s fall from grace. Although he maintains his position at the helm of the giant bank, he is no longer the banker with the best reputation—especially in Washington.