Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category




I was recently watching a John Oliver YouTube video about televangelists whose charities are somewhat suspicious, and it got me thinking about experts, “gurus” and “influencers.” Sadly, there are plenty of phony preachers in that space too. In fact, a colleague likes to remind me that not all trust experts are trustworthy. Imagine that!

These are some first-hand examples of phony preachers:

  • The leadership “consultant” who seeks out sound bytes from those with real expertise for an upcoming paid speaking “gig.” After all, why pass up the opportunity to get paid even if it’s for a speech you are not qualified to deliver.
  • The prolific leadership “writer” whose work is never written by them or even original. Quotes lifted from famous philosophers, entire blog entries cut and pasted from the work of others. And when called out, lies about it.
  • The world “renowned” nominee who asks for a vote for “Thinkers 50,” but who freely “borrows” PowerPoint and Slideshare presentations from those with genuine expertise, and when caught redhanded, brushes it off.
  • The “character expert” who writes about plagiarism, but doesn’t bother to check (or care) whether those whose work they themselves reference is original or plagiarized.
  • The “trust guru” who forgets to say “thank you” when a good deed is done for them.

Is it any wonder that trust continues to decline across all major institutions? After all, if the advisors, coaches, thought leaders, experts and influencers are not living that which they preach (and that’s being polite,) what other outcome could possibly be expected?

But every story has a silver lining. It’s called a bell curve and like any business, even in “trust” there are some real deals. I am honored to know many of them who have been named to our annual Top Thought Leaders in Trust over the past seven years.

In the early years of this annual recognition, someone suggested that there need not be a requirement that the honorees walk their talk. Imagine that suggestion! The “real deals” are not those who are the most active on social media or who claim a (t00) long laundry list of accomplishments. Instead, they are often the voice you may not hear, and whose name you may not recognize… researchers, scholars, consultants and leaders who have put in their time, paid their dues, and have earned the privilege to speak, consult and guide others. People with real credentials who know what trust is and act accordingly.

When I was a kid, my dad liked to remind me not to allow anyone to “pull a snow job.” If you’ve never heard that expression, Merriam-Webster offers the following definition: “a strong effort to make someone believe something by saying things that are not true or sincere.

Anyone can call themselves an expert. It’s up to the “buyer” to determine if they’ve earned the right to use that title.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and a Managing Member at FACTS® Asset Management, a NJ registered investment advisor. In 2012 Barbara was named one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International, and in 2017 she was named a “Fellow” of the Governance & Accountability Institute. Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA.

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Trust is at the heart of all successful relationships, both personal and professional. While business leaders often view it as a “soft skill” in reality, trust is the key driver of profitability and long-term success. Drawing on the insights of twelve high integrity leaders and thinkers, and in our never-ending quest to elevate trust in business, Trust Across America offers these insights to the most important question for 2017:


What do you believe is the most important action a business leader can take to build trust with his/her stakeholders?


Stephen M.R. Covey, one of America’s most well known thought leaders on trust urges leaders to…

Lead out in extending trust. @StephenMRCovey In building trust with ALL stakeholders, lead out in extending trust. Click To Tweet

Why?  Because extending trust generates a reciprocity of trust.  When we give it, people receive it—and then they return it.  When we withhold it, they withhold it.  


Marshall Goldsmith a top American leadership coach seconds Stephen’s advice…

Lead by example. @CoachGoldsmith In building trust with ALL stakeholders, lead by example. Click To Tweet

What we do speaks far more loudly than what we say.


Bob Vanourek of Triple Crown Leadership and a former CEO of five companies, urges leaders to…

Put trust on the agenda. @BobVanourek In building trust with ALL stakeholders, put trust on the agenda. Click To Tweet

By constantly putting trust questions on the agenda, like “Are we building trust with what we are doing here?” everyone will begin to understand and take action on building trust.


David Reiling, Sunrise Bank’s CEO suggest that leaders…

Walk the talk. @ReilingDavid In building trust with ALL stakeholders, walk the talk. Click To Tweet

Day-in and day-out, night-in and night-out, weekends and holidays. Being authentic and living with integrity builds trust in business and everywhere else. 


 Linda Fisher Thornton who runs Leading in Context and is on a mission to unleash the positive power of ethical leadership urges leaders to…

Show genuine interest. @leadingincontxt In building trust with ALL stakeholders, show genuine interest. Click To Tweet

Initiate conversations and find ways to add value. Think about the impact of every decision on every stakeholder, and act in their best interests as well as your own. 


Tim Erblich, CEO of Ethisphere believes the most important action a leader can take to build trust is to…

Measure the culture @TimErblich In building trust with ALL stakeholders, measure the culture. Click To Tweet

of his/her business, and openly share the findings with employees, stakeholders and more.  


Dave Ulrich, a professor at the Ross School of Business (University of Michigan) and co-founder of the RBL Group, found it hard to pick one thing so we picked it for him!

Be transparent. @Dave_Ulrich  In building trust with ALL stakeholders, be transparent. Click To Tweet

Avoid leadership hypocrisy…do what you say. Share personal feelings.


Evan Harvey who directs Corporate Responsibility at NASDAQ seconded the theme of transparency with his answer…

Act transparently. @EvanHarvey99 In building trust will ALL stakeholders, act transparently. Click To Tweet

Tell your stakeholders what you are trying to accomplish and why; then demonstrate progress towards a goal. That involves others in the process, widens the circle of influence and interaction, and builds lasting trust.


Jim Lukaszewski, an author, speaker and crisis management consultant urges leaders to…

Be candid. @JimLukaszewski In building trust with ALL stakeholders, be candid. Click To Tweet

Find the truth, tell that truth, act on it promptly in an environment where values matter at least as much as profits and gain. Candor: truth with an attitude told right now is the basic building block of Trust.


Doug Conant, former CEO Campbell Soup who heads Conant Leadership, believes the most important action a business leader can take to build trust is…

Do what you say you are going to do. @DougConant In building trust with ALL stakeholders, do what you say you are going to do. Click To Tweet

And do it well. How can people trust a leader who says one thing but does another? They can’t and won’t.”


Jason Lunday Principal Consultant Integrity Factor quotes another one of my favorite trust thought leaders, Frank Navran “Trust is the result of promises fulfilled.”

Keep your promises. @Jason_Lunday In building trust with ALL stakeholders, keep your promises. Click To Tweet

Establish full-cycle mechanisms to ensure that the organizations’ promises will be met, including communicating success.


And as the 12th recommendation Barbara Kimmel (that’s me) offers leaders the following:

The leader sets the tone for the organization. @BarbaraKimmel In building trust with ALL stakeholders, the leader sets the tone for the organization. Click To Tweet

Building stakeholder trust first begins with leadership recognition that trust is critical to long-term organizational success. This means making trust a leading business focus in both the Board & C-Suite, reinforcing the trust imperative, and always leading by example.


Thank you to all our contributors.  May 2017 bring increasing stakeholder trust to your organization!

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its seventh year, the program’s proprietary FACTS® Framework ranks and measures the trustworthiness of over 2,000 U.S. public companies on five quantitative indicators of trust. Barbara is also the editor of the award-winning TRUST INC. book series and a Managing Member at FACTS® Asset Management, a New Jersey registered investment advisor.

Copyright (c)  2016, Next Decade, Inc.

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Executive Summary of White Paper Recently Published

by Trust Across America-Trust Around the World


Building a trustworthy company will improve both its profitability and organizational sustainability. Supporting this statement is a growing body of evidence showing an increasing correlation between trustworthiness and superior financial performance. Our 2016 report attempts to provide content and context to place trust in the center of more business conversations, to answer the following questions and dispel the myth that integrity and trust are “soft” skills.

  • Why do trust and integrity matter?
  • Can they be measured?
  • Are they profitable?
  • Which sectors are the most trustworthy?
  • Is industry destiny?
  • What are the costs of low trust and integrity and why do they matter as hard currencies?
  • Which companies are some of the most trustworthy and why?
  • How can companies become more trustworthy?

Integrity and trust should start at the top and flow down through the organization. They are not CSR, compliance, HR or leadership “programs” but rather an intentional holistic business strategy adopted by leadership and practiced daily. Vanishing are the days of low transparency, “short termism” and maximization of shareholder value at the expense of other stakeholders.

As trust breaches continue to make the headlines across many major institutions and societies around the globe, organizations that choose integrity and trust as intentional strategies will continue to outperform their peers.

Who will find value in reading this paper?

  • Business leaders
  • Boards of Directors
  • Associations
  • Investors
  • Communications and Investor Relations
  • Corporate responsibility officers
  • Regulators
  • Politicians
  • NGOs

Please register here to request access to the full paper.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its seventh year, the program’s proprietary FACTS® Framework ranks and measures the trustworthiness of over 1500 US public companies on five quantitative indicators of trust. Barbara also runs the world largest global Trust Alliance, is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and a Managing Member at FACTS® Asset Management, a NJ registered investment advisor.

Copyright © 2016, Next Decade, Inc.




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When a baby decides it is time to be born…”the show must go on.”

Such was the case on January 23, 2016 when approximately 103 million people were affected by a blizzard that hit the east coast of the US, requiring eleven states to declare emergencies, including New Jersey.

Assisted by local EMTs, the healthy baby was delivered at home on the living room couch, the second child of a couple with a fully paid health insurance policy. But the extreme weather conditions and treacherous roads required both the healthy mother and her new baby to be transported to the closest hospital, not one designated by the family’s insurance plan, and certainly not through any special requests on the family’s part. In less than 24 hours, both mother and child were released from the “unaffiliated” hospital, returning home to celebrate their new arrival.

But the biggest surprise for this family was yet to arrive.

The following week a hospital bill was delivered for $53,000. And in case you are not totally shocked by that number, it didn’t include subsequent invoices from the EMTs, emergency room doctors, nor the $39.00 adult diaper that was “sold” to the mother following delivery, to name just a few “incidentals” that brought the total “hit” to over $60,000.

Now this family, who should be bonding and celebrating the birth of their healthy second child, is instead:

1) Faced with a daunting bill that no insured young middle class family could ever possibly pay, and mounds of paperwork and invoice totals that change with every postal delivery.

2) Spending countless hours away from their children and professional obligations listening to prerecorded messages claiming “our menus have changed,” “your call is important to us” and “we are experiencing unusually high call volume.”

The following are some not so simple questions for insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, miscellaneous health services providers and any other parties who would like to weigh in on this story:

What responsibility, if any, do organizations have to ensure their customers are treated fairly, ethically and in a trustworthy manner?

Has corporate greed and the “maximization of shareholder value” permanently replaced doing what’s right?

If this child had been born to a family with no health insurance what would their bill be?

How can this family, who believed they had done everything “right” except better timing the birth of their baby, expeditiously resolve this and “get on” with what matters and their daily lives?”

I suppose the moral of the story is “buyer beware:” 

Even under the most extreme circumstances caused by acts of nature, thousands of dollars in monthly health insurance premiums don’t “cut it” once companies are asked to honor their obligations and do the right thing. Why is this so?

Please send any suggestions or advice to

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its seventh year, the program’s proprietary FACTS® Framework ranks and measures the trustworthiness of over 2000 US public companies on five quantitative indicators of trustworthy business behavior. Barbara is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine.

Copyright 2016, Next Decade, Inc.


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In Capitalism and Freedom (1962) the late American economist Milton Friedman wrote:

There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.

During the 50+ years following the book’s publication the meaning of Friedman’s quote has been debated in C-Suites around the world, particularly the “rules of the game.” The widely held interpretation is one of a status quo; as long as it’s legal the corporation has fulfilled its role in society. Hence, with Friedman’s legacy in mind, the majority of leaders and their boards tend to focus on regulatory compliance as the “golden rule” and push the “soft stuff” like culture, trust, employee engagement and community off to the side, or perhaps to a functional silo that then creates a “program” or a philanthropic PR campaign.

There is a small and growing cadre of CEOs who are simply no longer accepting Friedman’s theory as gospel.

One of them is Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. This past January, Schultz was the first CEO to be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Trust Across America. And just recently in his annual address to shareholders, Howard asked his audience to consider two questions:

  1. What is the role & responsibility of a for profit company?
  2. What is the role and responsibility of all of us as citizens?

We asked members of our Trust Alliance and our Top Thought Leaders to weigh in on Howard’s video and questions, and are sharing a few of the responses.

Nadine Hack: Yes, we live and work at a time when our collective values often are alarmingly devoid of compassion, generosity, concern for others or common civility. But, we’ve always had backward-looking fear-mongers concurrent with forward-looking hope-givers. So, like Schultz, I choose to be optimistic, caring, and a committed participant in expanding awareness of and desire to effect positive change. Every day we do have a choice to advance the relay race towards greater compassion.

Bob Vanourek: For profit companies have done more than any other organization to raise people out of poverty, enhance living standards, lengthen life spans, and lower costs. But many market-based companies have gone seriously off-track. Regulations to set boundaries are necessary, but real reform must come from within.

Organizations at the board and CEO level must set the overarching goal to be excellent, ethical, and enduring. That is their overriding role and responsibility.

The days of the heroic leader riding in to save us all are gone. Yes, we need better CEO’s and government leaders, but the real work belongs to us in our families, neighborhoods, places of worship and work, and where we volunteer our time. There we need to engage in civil dialogue once more. As English writer Mary Wortley Montagu said, Civility costs nothing but buys everything.

Mark Crowley: The truth is humans have survived as a species not through competition or selfishness, but through intentional cooperation and collaboration.  The lesson from this is that nature intends for us to unite. It’s only by caring about each other that we can truly thrive. 

The greatest good businesses can do for society is to honor the human beings they employ. Giving workers respect, appreciation and fair treatment will only strengthen us.

And while valuing employees is an inherently noble thing to do, nature, once again, rewards it. One only needs to look at Starbucks financial success to confirm this.

Linda Fisher Thornton: Ethical leaders know they are responsible for upholding values that build strong companies, strong communities and strong societies– including care and compassion.

People have tried shortcuts that go around respect, civility and tolerance, but there is no acceptable shortcut on the road to profit (or power) that “goes around ethics.”

As the world changes, leaders who stay competent know that respect, human connection and trust matter. Those positive factors keep employees engaged in doing good work and that engagement translates into excellent service to customers, which translates into responsible profits.

And finally, Donna Boehme provides this summary. Many would dwell on the for-profit’s duty to generate profits for its investors, but there is an important element to that – transparency and good behavior in “how” the company does business. For example, if a company were to discover a giant bribery scheme in its operations, that company should seek to maintain the Trust of its constituencies by self-reporting to authorities and cleaning house immediately, and be transparent to its investors and employees about the discovery and subsequent actions.

Every Board and C-Suite has a duty and responsibility to ensure that their respective business is conducted consistent with relevant legal and ethical standards.

Each individual has many roles (as parent, citizen, voter, shareholder, professional, etc.) and spheres of influence where they can uniquely promote and support ethical and trustworthy behavior. To act consistently with the law and in a manner that will promote trust in our communities. That includes being informed and educated about trustworthy behavior and supporting those individuals, organizations, and institutions that promote ethical leadership and trust.

And, naturally, Howard Schultz has a few thoughts of his own about the role and responsibility of a for profit company.

“The heart of this question is a belief that the private sector must begin to hold itself more accountable in ways that include but go beyond fiscal responsibility. More than ever, the fragility of the times we live in requires us to extend ourselves in expected and unexpected ways. Companies such as Starbucks have the financial, intellectual, and human resources to step in and try to create new solutions for a multitude of communities, and since our earliest of days, we have done just that. We have worked to build a different kind of company –  one committed to delivering shareholder value while embracing values and guiding principles that serve our people, our customers, and the neighborhoods where we do business.”

And, it doesn’t stop there.

Howard has also said that we all have a collective responsibility for civility, personal responsibility and collective accountability for our communities and one another. As Howard Schultz framed on stage at its recent Annual Meeting of Shareholders: “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.” He suggested citizens refill the reservoir of the American Dream, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love…It’s not about the choice we make every four years. This is about the choices we make every day.”

Starbuck’s mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time. Howard Schultz continues to live that mission through both his words and actions.

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its sixth year, the program’s proprietary FACTS® Framework ranks and measures the trustworthiness of over 2000 US public companies on five quantitative indicators of trust. Barbara is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine.

Tuning in to Trust & Ethics is a new monthly column of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s Trust Alliance compiled by Barbara Brooks Kimmel

A shorter version of this article first appeared on the FCPA Blog.

Copyright © 2016, Next Decade, Inc.









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Organizations and their leaders often find themselves caught in “trust and ethics traps.”

Jes Staley the newly appointed American CEO of the beleaguered British Barclays Bank is one such leader. In fact, as he recently announced in this BBC News Article “I do believe that trust is returning to our institution. But we will never rest, we are never done. We have to focus on building that trust every day.”

Eerily, Staley’s comments have a familiar ring. In the wake of the Libor scandal in 2012 the Bank’s new CEO, an insider named Antony Jenkins also spoke extensively about rebuilding trust. Yet in an all too common response when faced with a crisis of trust and ethics, the Board Chair John McFarlane recently passed blame to regulators for picking on the bank.

We asked our Trust Alliance members to weigh in on the steps Barclays new CEO should take to build trust and ethics, carrying on the legacy of his predecessor.

Leadership Momentum’s Elizabeth Doty emphasizes the importance of building on the company’s new purpose and values, by making clearer, stronger commitments to stakeholders:

Though outsiders can never know a company’s internal reality, Mr. Staley’s comments show that he recognizes that trust is earned by being trustworthy. It is also positive that Mr. Staley’s predecessor, Mr. Jenkins, clarified the company’s purpose and values, and outlined specific behaviors, such as “I honour my commitments.” Still, given the turmoil of repeated leadership changes and reorganization, Mr. Staley and his team are likely to face serious credibility challenges, regardless of their intent.

The purpose of a commitment is to reduce others’ uncertainty, so they feel less risk in trusting us. Making and keeping meaningful commitments is a powerful way to proactively demonstrate trustworthiness. Yet, despite Barclay’s clarification of its purpose and values, stakeholders are still left with their primary uncertainty: How will you make tradeoffs under pressure? “I see nothing to indicate rates and markets will not be rigged again in future or that schemes to enhance bank profits at customers’ expense…could not repeat,” posted one commenter. One solution is to make clearer, stronger commitments specifically related to the side-stepping stakeholders worry about. For example, Barclay’s could commit to doing whatever most contributes to a customer’s goals, or to a level playing field in the market. Though it takes courage, companies that put such a stake in the ground and learn how to deliver a) increase credibility by showing they understand stakeholders’ true risks, b) reduce the potential for mixed messages to staff, c) force themselves to innovate, and d) differentiate themselves in a way that is extremely difficult to emulate. The key will be not to underestimate the challenges of re-shaping their culture to get there.

Davia Temin, a leading reputation and crisis response consultant speaks of the trust challenges continuing to plague most of the largest global financial institutions years after the 2008 financial meltdown.

Rebuilding trust in financial institutions is a complex algorithm that can test the skills of the best financial engineering “rocket scientist.”  

Far from simply making a pronouncement of one’s intent (although that can be the first step), the organization needs to first deconstruct all the elements that went into building trust in their particular firm in the first place, analyze all the things that went wrong, and then construct a plan to overcorrect the breaches. Because simply fixing them will not rebuild trust, it will only, maybe, stop the erosion. 

But this is seriously hard work. Barclays, as most banks, has a number of critical audiences, each of whom needs a different set of fixes in order to begin to restore their trust. And some of those fixes are in direct conflict with others. Individual customers, shareholders, institutional clients, counterparties, regulators and legislators in every country in which they operate, and even the public at large must each feel that the bank puts THEIR INTERESTS in front of its own. Because it has been the self-dealing aspect of financial institutions’ behavior that did the most damage to their reputations and caused the greatest loss of trust.   

So, to rebuild trust, Barclays and others will need to show their audiences that the bank puts them first…and that’s a hard thing to do and remain profitable. But it is almost impossible to make such a promise and then ignore it, or to fail in its announced attempt. So, now that Mr. Staley has thrown down the gauntlet, perhaps he can get his financial product rocket scientists to reverse-engineer all the elements that went into the losing of public trust, share them with us all, and then announce how he will redress them, one by one. That, indeed, just might work, and would be my prescription.”

And finally Bob Whipple of Leadergrow reminds us where trust starts in all institutions.

It sounds like a lot of problems have been swept under the rug for some time and are impacting all facets of Barclays. I applaud the resolve to rebuild trust in the bank and the candor at admitting the many unpopular steps it will take.  My advice is to recognize that rebuilding a culture starts at the top and works its way down the organization.  Establish an understanding that it is safe for people to tell you the things that are hard to say. Do not punish people when they bring up issues that are uncomfortable or difficult to address.    

Similar to Barclays many organizations find themselves in trust traps because they hold on to the notion that trust and ethics are “soft skills.”

And because trust is ignored or taken for granted, its decline continues across all major institutions. Some of the warning signs of low trust include:

  • Disengaged boards with minimal diversity- not only must the board be “on board” with the mission and vision of the organization but research, including our own points to a correlation between high trust organizations and gender diversity.
  • Frequent crises- identifying core values, practicing and reinforcing them daily heads off many “would be” crises. Leaders who view trust as “soft” often find themselves spending the majority of their time putting out fires instead of improving their culture.
  • Short-term profit maximization at all costs including layoffs and job cuts as a first line of defense- it’s not unusual for companies like Barclays to think the bleeding can be stopped by cutting jobs and divisions, but these are simply bandages and they never cure diseases.
  • Decreasing CEO tenure and increasing compensation packages tied to quarterly earnings- try tying CEO compensation to some point in the future (3-5 years) and suddenly the focus changes from the short to the long term.
  • Increasing regulation (and scrutiny from regulators) and larger legal and compliance departments- as we have discussed in the past, trust simply can’t be regulated. It’s voluntary.

Fortunately the most progressive organizations have begun to recognize the strategic advantages of a high trust culture.

  • Fewer crises and the ability to recover more rapidly
  • A large trust “bank account”
  • Faster decision making and improved execution
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Higher customer loyalty and retention
  • Greater innovation (high trust fuels high innovation, not the other way around)
  • Increased long-term profitability

The trust and ethics crisis at Barclays will not end until insiders, beginning at the Board level, not only accept blame and take responsibility, but also put actionable measures in place to clean up the culture. Will Jes Staley be the CEO who turns Barclays around? Will he walk the trust he is talking? What do you think?

Tuning in to Trust & Ethics is a new monthly column of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World’s Trust Alliance compiled by Barbara Brooks Kimmel

Another version of this article first appeared on the FCPA Blog.

Part I:

Part II:

Copyright (c)  2016 Next Decade, Inc.




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