The GC's guide to corporate crises

Tips to help you prepare for and manage unforeseen problems and emergencies

Online Exclusive: Read more about GC's roles in corporate crises

The Penn State sex-abuse scandal. Wal-Mart exposed for possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations. The Cinemark movie theater shooting in Colorado. Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Imagining the Worst

Shortly after Sandra Leung became the corporate secretary at Bristol-Myers Squibb in 1999, the biopharmaceutical company experienced a series of regulatory crises that she worked hard to navigate. Leung, who now is the company’s general counsel and corporate secretary, says she’s immensely proud of helping Bristol-Myers Squibb work through those crises and contributing to a commendable turnaround that has helped the company thrive over the past decade. Part of what helped her to succeed was keeping a level head and following the company’s crisis-management plan.

Key Players

The members of companies’ crisis-management teams will vary depending on the crisis. For example, if the crisis relates to a government investigation, the general counsel should recruit the CEO, chief financial officer, head of corporate communications and the heads of any business units that may be implicated as team members. For other crises, such as white-collar crime, members of senior management may need to be excluded from the team.

Deal With It

In the heat of the crisis, GCs must prioritize communication with management, the board, outside counsel, insurance carriers and PR teams to effectively coordinate a response. 

Ashley Post

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