Dear Dieter (Zetsche)....

You spoke about integrity as a top priority during DaimlerChrysler’s annual shareholder meeting on Apr. 4. So I couldn’t help wondering what you would have thought about the scene in the press center during that long day when one of your managers went around encouraging journalists with a friendly smile not to take the shareholders’ criticism too seriously.

Do you really mean to be telling the press, “Hey, we don’t care what shareholders think. Especially the ones that criticize us.” Isn’t that a rather appalling lack of respect for the owners of your company? Daimler’s shareholders are angry not only about the value destroyed by the merger with Chrysler. They are fuming over the failure by management and board members to take responsibility for the errors made. Hilmar Kopper and Juergen Schrempp were pilloried at the meeting because they arrogantly refused to acknowledge shareholder criticism.

DaimlerChrysler’s press office under Juergen Schrempp was notorious for its drive to spin the news — purveying relentless, brittle optimism in the face of disaster. Things have changed for the better, no question. Your straight answers over the past 18 months have put much right. But if you are serious about corporate integrity, it time to root out any remnants of the old Welt-AG approach at Daimler to the press and shareholders. Both deserve to be treated with greater intelligence and respect. That will go a long way to enhancing group credibility. PS BMW treats both the press and shareholders with enormous respect.

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