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Expert panelists at the MSBA Legal Summit recently discussed the Top Ten Tips on How to Manage a Company Crisis. Moderator, Marisa Trasatti, Esquire, partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP also shared an article she co-wrote with Zachary Millder and Sean Fox titled, “Top Ten Steps in Managing a Company Crisis.” The MSBA wishes to express sincere gratitude to the professional panelists, without whom it would not be possible to offer this series.

Last week this series focused on the Ninth Tip – preparing a response to a regulatory or law enforcement agency, if they are involved.  Before submitting a response, the crisis management team should ensure that the company has a lawyer with the particular expertise required for the type of crisis and issue a litigation hold.  Part of preparing a response includes reviewing all documents and protecting any privileged nature of a document.  Reviewing industry-wide and competitor responses to the regulatory or law enforcement agency and determining the target of the current leadership of the agency is also recommended.  

This week, the MSBA will discuss the Tenth Tip on how to manage a crisis: Concluding the Plan.  

The expert panelists emphasized continual monitoring of the crisis for a few months. A list of items to monitor during this period include company and competitor product lines, daily review of the regulatory or law enforcement agency’s website for communications regarding the crisis, once a week meetings of the crisis management team to ensure all aspects of the crisis have been resolved and employees are  implementing and complying with any new company policies and procedures as a result of the crisis.  

The crisis management team may decide to issue a press release notifying shareholders, customers, and the general public that the crisis is over with resultant outcomes.  Any actions taken by the company to prevent or minimize a similar crisis in the future should be included in the press release. Honesty is the best policy here, especially in order to “avoid any future action by the regulatory or law enforcement agency,” said Ms. Trasatti.  Anyone who has assisted a company through a crisis as inside or outside counsel will agree with Ms. Trasatti that closure of a crisis  “feels every bit as good as a defense verdict when that day comes.” 

In sum: Continue to have the crisis management team monitor the crisis including monitoring your competitors, reviewing regulatory/law enforcement websites, and teleconferencing for company-wide compliance.  Prepare press releases and letters to customers announcing the conclusion of the crisis. Be mindful about disclosing internal investigation documents or information with third parties or the public.

The top ten tips on how to manage a company crisis were identified by the panel of crisis experts:

  • Determine What Activities the Crisis Management Plan (Before the Crisis)
  • Formulate the Crisis Management Team 
  • Assess the Crisis 
  • The Initial Response 
  • Insurance
  • Manage the External Appearance: Public Relations, Media, and Customers 
  • Manage the Internal Appearance – Advising Employees and Communicating with Key Opinion Leaders
  • Adjust the Company’s Promotional & Sales Practices 
  • Response to Regulatory/Law Enforcement
  • Concluding the Plan

You may watch the conclusion of the presentation below:  

This article is the twelfth of a 13-week part series that has discussed how counsel can help their clients create a crisis management strategy and manage a company crisis.  Last week, the MSBA discussed the ninth of ten tips on how to manage a company crisis. Next week, the MSBA will provide a comprehensive summation of all the myths and tips including the advice and counsel of the professional panelists listed below.  In week one of the series, the MSBA generally discussed the top ten tips on how to manage a company crisis.  Week two was a detailed summary of the 7 myths of a company crisis. Some of the material to support this article was taken from “Top Ten Steps in Managing a Company Crisis,” by Marisa A. Trasatti, Zachary A. Miller and Sean M. Fox published in the In-House Defense Quarterly, Winter (2020).  The MSBA wishes to express sincere gratitude to the professional panelists, without whom it would not be possible to offer this series.

Join us for the final week as we continue to cover in detail the Top Ten Tips in Managing a Company Crisis.    

Panelists:                                                                     

Aaron C. Burton, CEO of Sciton, Inc. Sciton, Inc. is the largest privately held dermatological and medical device laser manufacturer.  Aaron shared his experience as CEO and especially the crisis that developed at Sciton during his first year. Aaron also generously shared how Sciton handled and endured the COVID crisis.   

Linda Lenrow Lopez, Director of Operations, Risk Alternatives, L3 Management Innovations, LLC.  Linda has more than 25 years of experience in private and non-private sector risk management. Linda shared her experience as a project manager and Director of Operations at Bechtel Corporation. Other roles Linda served at Bechtel include corporate risk manager for a global business unit and project risk manager. Linda currently works at L3 Management Innovations and draws upon her years of professional experience in this area to share with the group.                                        

Robert E. Scott, Jr., partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP. Robert handles litigation on insurance coverage, drug and medical devices and many other areas.  Robert shared his expertise on crisis management and his insights on planning ahead to control future crises.

Sam Terzich, Gallagher Bassett. Sam is a current director of the company and manages specialty claims including product liability, cyber, environmental, pollution and product recall.  Sam has been in the claims industry for 25 years and will address the insurance issues that arise during a company crisis.                 

Marisa Trasatti, Esquire, partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP, and also General Counsel to Sciton, Inc. Marisa is the moderator of the Top Ten Tips to Manage a Crisis. Marisa shares her unique experiences of managing a crisis as General Counsel for Sciton along with valuable lessons learned as counsel for an organization in the midst of a crisis. Marisa’s practice focuses primarily on civil litigation, with an emphasis on product liability litigation, including cases involving drugs and medical devices.  She is a past president of Maryland Defense Counsel and served as the DRI Maryland State Representative.