Planning for a Corporate Crisis

March 9, 2020

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In today’s increasingly globalised, regulated and litigious environment, the risk of unexpected and potentially destabilising events arising and playing out in the public eye has never been greater.

Those issues might originate from law enforcement, regulatory or government investigations, result from natural or man-made disasters, or be sparked by scandals involving senior executives. Whatever their cause, crises call for a multidisciplinary approach that demands forward planning and a coordinated strategy, both in the immediate aftermath and thereafter. 

Effective crisis management strategies require integration across business functions, legal and investigatory support, and public relations advice. The best-prepared organisations have their playbook ready well before a crisis hits.

Just over a year ago, Cleary Gottlieb launched the first edition of our Global Crisis Management Handbook – a unique desk reference for companies looking to prepare for, and react to, all types of crisis situations. A year on, we are pleased to have published the second edition of the Handbook, which has been comprehensively reviewed and updated by our expert Crisis Management team to take into account recent developments and new case studies in this fast-moving and complex area of law and practice.

Click here to download the Global Crisis Management Handbook.

Growing likelihood of a crisis

Recent events have highlighted the growing likelihood of crises occurring. They have also illustrated the benefits of global organisations taking a global perspective on their crisis management strategies.

Whereas, in the past, enforcement and regulatory interest was likely to be confined to events in a home jurisdiction, enforcement agencies now increasingly consider their remit to extend beyond their own borders. That trend is only exacerbated by technology, the increased speed and reach of news, competition (and cooperation) between regulators, and a sharper focus on cross-border rights and responsibilities (in the field of data privacy, for example). Nevertheless, this need for a global approach sits hand in glove with an ever-present requirement for sensitivity to potentially different, and diverse, local issues.

Communication is key in a crisis

A key challenge is providing answers to multiple stakeholders in multiple jurisdictions in real time.  This creates issues around consistency of messaging, the tension between stakeholders’ expectations of transparency and the challenge of providing accurate information in a fast-moving environment, and evolving and often inconsistent legal approaches in different jurisdictions. 

Effective management of these issues is a central element of this year’s Handbook, which has been significantly expanded to increase the coverage of these issues in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Brazil. To take one example, the challenges around preserving legal privilege over communications between companies and their lawyers are significant in a cross-border crisis, where the rules vary significantly between jurisdictions and are often subject to change. The Handbook includes expert guidance on the privilege regimes in different jurisdictions, as well as specific guidance on how to maximise the protection of documents and information from disclosure in the event of a fast-moving international crisis.

Click here to download the Global Crisis Management Handbook.

A manual to help through the crisis

In all, the Handbook runs to more than 300 pages and is designed to act as a go-to companion that serves as a desk reference supporting organisations in preparing for a crisis, spotting issues and avoiding common mistakes. The focus is on preparation, cross-border coordination, a multidisciplinary approach and agile reactions, with chapters addressing managing the first response, conducting an internal investigation, data privacy, employee rights, public relations and more.

There are countless examples of large businesses falling down in the event of a crisis, whether by losing senior management credibility, not getting the timing or content of the public message right or failing to disclose appropriately. There is much that can go wrong – we hope the Handbook will introduce business leaders to some of the common issues and help outline practical steps for addressing these challenging situations effectively.

Click here to download the Global Crisis Management Handbook.