Argumentation in finance
Docente: Eddo Rigotti
Assistente: Rudi Palmieri
Course type: Master +2
Value in ECTS: 6
Bibliographic references available on the University Library website
Academic year 2012/2013 - Spring semester
Financial communication, including corporate voluntary and compulsory disclosures as well as texts and documents published by other actors of the financial market such as analysts, rating agencies and media, is typically oriented at promoting sound investment decisions. For this reason, the use of argumentation is widespread in financial activities. In general, argumentation is the reasoning-based discourse which, starting from available information, enables people to reach agreement and higher knowledge about uncertain matters related to cognitive or practical problems. In the financial context, argumentation is frequently adopted in order to remove or at least reduce uncertainty, to attempt resolving conflicts of interest, and to handle with various kinds of difference of opinion, thus enhancing the knowledge needed to make reasonable decisions.
The course considers various activities pertaining the domain of financial communication in which argumentation plays a prominent role: corporate announcements to shareholders and other stakeholders (including takeover documents, earning releases, financial reporting, and shareholders meetings), rating agencies´ decisions, analysts conference calls, media-based debates over financially relevant issues, banks´ advertising.
During the course a method is proposed for the analysis and evaluation as well as the construction of arguments in support of or against a standpoint (point of view) elaborated in the context of a financial activity. To this purpose, different cases are examined in detail concerning current economic-financial issues.
Several instruments are introduced in support of the analysis and production of argumentative interventions: the technique of argumentarium (a systematic set of cause-related arguments), which is increasingly adopted by banks; the classical rhetorical model for constructing argumentative texts; the pragma-dialectical analytic overview for eliciting systematically the argumentative segments of a discourse; and the Argumentum Model of Topics, for analyzing the deep structure of arguments both in their inferential and context-bound components.
The quality of financial argumentation is considered by distinguishing between sound argumentative processes and manipulation; the analysis of well-known financial failures or scandals will show that they are largely based on fallacious argumentative moves.
A relevant part of the course is devoted to two currently crucial financial issues: (1) argumentation in relation to the current global crisis and to the loss of trust derived from it, where the focus is put on how troubled companies argue in order to restore their trustworthiness in front of their different stakeholders. The course addresses this issue by analyzing the discourses published by companies, evaluating them not only according to their logical consistency but also in their relational dimension, in which the reputation and the identity of the companies, one the one hand, and the sentiments and expectations of the stakeholders, on the other hand, are involved; (2) the argumentative practices adopted by Swiss banks when implementing the norms for the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing. Based on the results emerging from an ongoing research project, some argumentative strategies are discussed which banks adopt in order (a) to decide whether a suspicious activity report should be sent to the Financial Intelligence Unit; (b) to justify the reasonableness of the suspicion in the report; (c) to maintain a trust-based relationship with customers.
The course aims at enhancing students´ familiarity with argumentative practices in the financial context. Students will develop their argumentative skills at the level of production of argumentative oral and written interventions as well as at the level of analysis and evaluation of financial messages.
Teaching is based on a markedly dialogical style, combining theoretical lessons with class discussions, group exercises and students´ presentations.
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R. Palmieri (2009). Regaining Trust through Argumentation in the Context of the Current Financial-economic Crisis. Studies in Communication Sciences 9/2: 59-78.
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E. Rigotti and S. Greco Morasso (2009). Argumentation as an Object of Interest and as a Social and Cultural Resource. In: N. Muller-Mirza & A.N. Perret-Clermont (eds.), Argumentation and Education (pp. 9-66). New York: Springer.
E. Rigotti and S. Greco Morasso (2010). Comparing the Argumentum Model of Topics to Other Contemporary Approaches to Argument Schemes: The Procedural and Material Components. Argumentation 24(4): 489-512.
E. Rigotti and R. Palmieri (2010). Analyzing and evaluating complex argumentation in the economic-financial context. In: C. Reed and C. W. Tindale (eds.). Dialectics, Dialogue and Argumentation. An examination of Douglas Walton´s Theories of Reasoning and Argument (pp. 85-99). London: College Publications .
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