A contentious $US8 billion ($12.6 billion) takeover of cancer screening business Grail had prompted a campaign by activist investor Carl Icahn, fights with competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, and criticism from Grail’s founding directors.
Mr deSouza told analysts the drama was only affecting “a very small part of the company”.
But each time he was asked about Grail, there were shifts in his speech rate, pitch and volume, according to Speech Craft Analytics, which uses artificial intelligence to analyse audio recordings. There was also an increase in filler words like “um” and “ah” and even an audible gulp.
Mr DeSouza resigned less than two months later.
The idea that audio recordings could provide tips on executives’ true emotions has caught the attention of some of the world’s largest investors.
Many funds already use algorithms to trawl through transcripts of earnings calls and company presentations to glean signals from executives’ choice of words – a field known as “Natural Language Processing” (NLP). Now they are trying to find further messages in the way those words are spoken.
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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