Morgan Lewis recognizes the formidable challenges clients face in sudden or emerging crises triggered by catastrophic events, significant government investigations, product recalls, mass torts, data security breaches, or alleged compliance or governance failures. Lawyers on our veteran crisis-management team employ a strategic and business-focused approach to addressing such emergencies. We combine rapid response during the first critical hours and days of a crisis with strategic guidance to mitigate long-term legal, business, governmental, regulatory, constituent, and public relations impacts—an approach we have honed from our experience as counsel in some of the largest and most visible crises of the last several decades.
Our team helps alleviate the enormous strain that crises impose on those within an organization who must carry out their day-to-day duties while shepherding their business through the ordeal. Our global crisis managers assist in prioritizing issues, easing internal stresses, developing and implementing communication strategies, securing and managing data, and formulating and executing legal strategy. Our approach is aimed at giving our clients the highest probability of achieving their immediate and long-term goals while minimizing disruption and adverse business impact.
When a catastrophic or other highly visible event occurs, the first response often necessarily focuses on containing or minimizing harm, establishing triage, and gathering facts in anticipation of media or constituent inquiries, governmental investigations, and private litigation. The aftereffects of an emergency can include civil and criminal investigations by government agencies or legislative officials—including those at the federal, state, provincial, and local levels—and private class action and other litigation brought by allegedly affected individuals or businesses. In the case of a public company, there may be litigation or investigations relating to the impact on shareholders or other investors. Securing insurance coverage can be critical. Significant communications issues with directors, shareholders, employees, customers, and key constituents typically arise and must be managed carefully.
Some crises may evolve relatively slowly, with the full spectrum of future issues not immediately apparent. The first sign of a crisis could arise from a governmental subpoena or request for information, individual litigation, whistleblower allegation, news exposé, or an internally identified compliance or governance failure. Identifying a potential crisis and developing a strategy for containing, addressing, and recovering from the crisis require an experienced eye able to examine the situation from a number of angles and to modify and update responses as needed—skills that the Morgan Lewis crisis-management team has honed.
Our crisis managers understand that a crisis—even one with predominantly legal challenges—must be viewed from the client’s business perspective. Successfully navigating a crisis requires accounting for its impact on the organization and all of its constituents, including directors, officers, shareholders, lenders, customers, regulators, and the general public. We also understand the advantage of getting in front of a crisis whenever possible and, as a result, many of our greatest successes come from the mitigation or declination of actions—helping clients avoid crises altogether or emerge from situations more quickly and with less financial, reputational, and political harm.
All crises are disruptive and have potential business impact. We have guided clients through crises of all sizes, from confidential investigations resulting in no action to some of the most public and complex crises in recent history. Every day we work with clients to avoid potential crises and minimize risk.
The #MeToo movement has dramatically raised the stakes for companies facing allegations of workplace sexual harassment, which can quickly turn into a public relations crisis that needs to be managed. This course provides timely, valuable and practical advice for in-house counsel facing the many challenges associated with investigating, defending and managing crises arising from workplace sexual harassment claims
A seasoned crisis manager can help identify the components of a crisis, assess various potential outcomes, help prepare a communication plan to ensure that critical stakeholders receive accurate information in a timely manner, sequence and handle threats, develop a strategic plan for managing and resolving the crisis, and help the client team keep the business running.
At Morgan Lewis, we have a number of highly effective and nimble crisis managers with experience helping clients address complex, high-risk situations. These managers are able to call on other Morgan Lewis lawyers who specialize in a wide range of fields to help address the specific threats at issue. We are well suited to help prepare and counsel client executives, in-house counsel, and board members through complex and evolving legal and regulatory challenges. We strive to assist our clients to emerge from crises as quickly as possible with minimum financial, reputational, and political harm.
Our crisis management approach focuses on the following:
When a crisis emerges, it is often crucial that a company be able to respond almost immediately to contain and address threats. This makes it important for many companies to have prepared crisis-management plans in advance of a crisis. Based on our decades of experience and an understanding of our clients’ core business objectives, we assist companies across all industries in formulating these advance crisis-management plans. Such planning helps clients to consider the types of crises that may occur, outline processes for stabilizing and containing crisis situations, develop blueprints for required communications and methods for distributing necessary information, identify and train key personnel in crisis response, and create and put in place processes for gathering facts, managing data, and making key decisions. Advance plans can greatly minimize the pressure on company management as it responds to an emergency, thereby helping to mitigate potential liabilities and costs. We regularly work with our clients to develop such advance plans.
In the wake of a crisis, a variety of audiences will demand information and will want to understand the impact of the crisis on theIn the wake of a crisis, a variety of audiences will demand information and will want to understand the impact of the crisis on their specific interests. Developing and implementing a factually accurate, comprehensive, and integrated messaging strategy is critical to protecting a client’s reputation and legal position. This can be challenging in the early stages of a crisis where many constituents are asking for answers and the facts may remain unclear. Working closely with the client’s public relations and communications professionals and internal legal teams, we can use our decades of experience to help vet, draft, and tailor communications for all external and internal audiences, including media, board members, shareholders, company executives and managers, employees, vendors, retailers, customers, clients, government agencies, and community organizations.
Our lawyers are well versed in considering not only the content of messages but also their consistency with the client’s legal positions and core business goals, paying close attention to the strategic timing, positioning, and placement of sensitive statements. In this way, we can often assist the client in restoring its public image and in ensuring that whatever is released externally and internally is factually accurate and aligned with positions in court or before government agencies.
Understanding the connections among various dimensions of a crisis, our lawyers can promptly appraise the probable interdependent legal, government, and policy consequences to help identify and prioritize areas of greatest potential risk. We then assist in developing strategies to sequence litigated or negotiated resolutions, aimed at obtaining the most favorable results possible.
Based on our experience, we recognize that government actions or investigations can pose significant peril with the potential for a ripple of effects in other legal proceedings, as well as in the court of public opinion. We have therefore found that it is vital to consider the relationship between government investigations and related proceedings to devise the optimal sequence of resolution. Our team includes well-respected former prosecutors and regulators, all of whom maintain a high degree of credibility with their former departments and are able to efficiently and effectively negotiate on behalf of the client.
Our goal is to develop a systematic approach—in full coordination with other Morgan Lewis team members—across multiple fronts—to control and proactively manage the central threats to the client’s interests. We then deal with these risks in a progression intended to create the optimum scenario for success.
We provide a sophisticated two-pronged approach to information management in a crisis, offering a secure, private communication infrastructure and a comprehensive electronic evidence and document control system. The first structure allows for the confidential exchange of information vital to handling an emergency from its initial stages through its resolution, while the second—completely separate—system ensures that evidence required for investigations and litigation is gathered and maintained in a sound manner.
We strive to assist clients in creating and maintaining an organized and focused approach to collecting, analyzing, understanding, and disseminating the information needed in a crisis. We help bring order to what could otherwise become a chaotic situation, giving clients and other team members access to the data they need to properly handle an emergency and its eventual legal consequences.
We help clients manage relations with the many government agencies, law enforcement groups, organizations, and nongovernmental citizen groups that may be active in a crisis. We have often succeeded in securing declination of prosecutorial or enforcement actions, thereby minimizing or altogether avoiding possible penalties, sanctions, or public relations consequences and lessening the chances for successful follow-on civil litigation. In addition, we have helped many clients preempt crises through strong and early internal action or litigation containment.
Our trial teams have a strong track record of litigating bet-the-company cases, including winning complete dismissals and zero-liability outcomes from judges and juries in high-profile cases, including cases brought in hostile jurisdictions. In recent years, our lawyers have achieved massive trial and arbitration wins, including those stemming from history’s most catastrophic offshore oil rig disaster, the largest environmental penalty action in Texas history, crises focused on prescription medicines, significant financial crises, and a major assault on a global auto manufacturer. We assemble integrated and experienced trial teams that include subject matter specialists and trial and appellate lawyers. Our teams regularly work together, allowing us to effectively execute coordinated strategies across multiple disciplines.