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Herbert Smith Freehills Talks Crisis Management

At its 4thAnnual US Corporate Crime and Investigations Conference


Many companies will at some point face an event that gives rise to a high-profile crisis situation. In today’s 24-hour, global news environment it has become increasingly important that executive leadership and in-house counsel be adept at managing and responding to such situations no matter when, or where, they occur.

Though some codes of conduct offer limited guidance on handling certain aspects of a crisis, no manual or rulebook prescribes comprehensive guidance for all eventualities. Responding to the need for such guidance, Herbert Smith Freehills took on the issue of crisis management at its 4th Annual Corporate Crime and Investigations Conference held in New York City. At the conference, Herbert Smith Freehills partners from around the globe walked through the nuts and bolts of the various factors in-house counsel needs to consider when addressing a crisis situation and provided insights into the potential responses to the many facets a crises might take on.

A panel of legal, media and public relations professionals

Speaking at the conference was a panel of Herbert Smith Freehills Corporate Crime and Investigations partners who brought viewpoints from multiple jurisdictions including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong, China and others. Also participating on the panel was an award-winning investigative journalist from a top US national newspaper and two seasoned public relations professionals from a leading strategic communications firm with offices across the United States.

Leading the conference was Scott Balber, Managing Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills’ New York office and US Head of Investigations and Financial Services Litigation, and John O’Donnell, a Corporate Crime and Investigations partner also based in New York who is a former federal prosecutor and SEC enforcement attorney. They were joined by Hong Kong-based Kyle Wombolt who is the Global Head of the firm’s Corporate Crime and Investigations practice; Jonathan Mattout who heads the Corporate Crime and Investigations and Compliance practices in Paris; and London-based Corporate Crime and Investigations partners Susannah Cogman and Brian Spiro.

Juggling multiple objectives in a crisis situation

Balber kicked-off the panel discussion: “A crisis is more serious than a difficult issue. It is time-critical, unexpected, brings an intense media spotlight and interrupts ‘business as usual.’”

“In a crisis, companies need to limit sensitivity amid intense media scrutiny. They need to minimize liability and damage to reputation; retain (or enhance) goodwill and employee morale; strengthen and showcase brand value; minimize the effects of media coverage; work with regulators and governments to stave off intervention and enhanced regulation; and protect business operations and retain investor confidence,” he continued.

“The in-house counsel plays the role of quarterback. They will likely possess the most complete knowledge of the facts and issues of anyone in the business and may act as a conduit for information, as well as controlling and coordinating the flow of information with investors, employees, customers and the press,” said Balber.

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