Reputational Crises Put CEOs at Risk

When reputational crises hit, market cap, sales, margins and profits are all on the line. And these situations are becoming more frequent—and more costly—than ever, with a recent study showing an increase in losses from reputational attacks increasing by more than 400% in the past five years.

But it is not only the corporate entity facing challenges, individuals in leadership—particularly CEOs—face personal risk as well. It has become clear that CEOs need tools to protect themselves as well as their companies’ reputations. Since damage from reputational attacks takes place in the court of public opinion, traditional liability solutions, such as directors and officers coverage, are not effective. But new tools are available in the form of a reputation assurance solution that can help deter attacks from even happening and bundled insurances to mitigate the damage when they do occur.

Research by Steel City Re has found that:

  • Financial losses related to reputational attacks have increased by more than 400% in the past five years, a trend that continues.
  • There is an increase in public anger and, as a result, more blame is being cast upon recognizable targets, such as CEOs.
  • Anger by stakeholders is fueled by disappointment—the gap between expectations and reality—which is all too often fueled by the company’s own actions.

Against that backdrop, the turnover rate among CEOs is increasing, with 58 of the S&P 500’s CEOs transitioning out of their jobs in 2016 according to SpencerStuart (although not all as a result of reputational crises). That is the highest number since 2006, a 13% increase over 2015, and a 57% increase over 2012.

If that weren’t enough reason for concern, history shows that when strong companies and their brands come under fire, their reputations eventually recover, despite the initial and medium-term impacts. Individual reputations of those companies’ leadership are not nearly as resilient, however, especially at a time when society; be it the media, social media, politicians or direct stakeholders; seems intent on personifying crises and affixing blame on individuals in positions of authority. And for CEOs, a reputational crises can affect their career and compensation for many years ahead.

In this environment, it is essential that risk managers understand the tools that are available to protect both companies and senior executives personally. Serving as a third-party warranty and available only to highly qualified insureds, reputation insurance attests to the efficacy of the company’s governance and operational practices, as adopted and overseen by the board and implemented by the CEO. Such coverage can deter reputational attacks in much the same way as a security sign on the front lawn deters burglars. It is a sign of quality governance. And when incidents do occur, it provides a built in alternative narrative to counter the attacks that are bound to occur. Finally, it gives the company and key individuals financial indemnification to mitigate any damage that ultimately does take place.

Just as “doing the right thing” did not protect directors and officers from liability in the era before the wide adoption of D&O insurance, it is no guarantee that attacks in the court of public opinion won’t take a significant financial toll. But it is one of the few solutions proven in the court of public opinion. In today’s culture, reputations are in jeopardy as never before and risk managers must utilize all tools available to protect those on the front lines.

Food Defense Initiatives Can Safeguard Your Company

When most people think of product contamination and recalls, the first thing that comes to mind is food poisoning cases from bacteria such as e-coli and listeria. Food and drug companies, however, are experiencing malicious and intentional product tampering that can be equally deadly and dangerous. Many of us can’t forget the 1982 cyanide Tylenol crisis, Johnson & Johnson’s worst nightmare as reported cases of death from their products came pouring in, causing recalls nationwide.

The Tylenol case was long ago, but unfortunately, decades later and despite modern day advancements in packaging and processes, there is still a steady flow of cases globally, where bad actors contaminate products. This can lead to possible danger for customers, recalls, lasting reputational damage and potentially huge financial losses.

For example, in 2013, unsafe levels of the insecticide malathion was found in a Japanese frozen food company’s product after customers reported a chemical smell coming from the products and almost 3,000 incidences of sickness from consuming them. As a result, the products were recalled and the company shut down, causing its stock to plummet.

Why does it happen?
The main motive for tampering with food products is to make a statement. Bad actors aim to cause injury or economic and reputational harm to companies, especially since news of these acts can go viral, creating the negative impact on companies they hope to achieve.

As with cases of cybercrime, these companies are in a sense being “hacked” and need protection. Like with the mysterious hacker, manufacturers and retailers are facing this threat from both inside and outside the organization.

Oftentimes an employee within the company is the culprit, such as in the case of Just Bare Whole Chicken. A recall of 55,608 pounds of chicken sold nationwide went into effect last June, after black sand and soil was found in some Gold’n Plump and Just Bare branded poultry. The employee responsible was identified and terminated, but the effects of the disruption were lasting.

Taking Preventative Measures
Food companies should have a full understanding of the risks they face, the insurance available, and the regulations associated with product tampering.

Insurance: Malicious Product Tampering (MPT) insurance addresses deliberate contamination, or the threat of such contamination of products when a company or the public has a reasonable belief that the products might cause bodily injury if consumed. MPT insurance should be considered as part of a total product recall risk management solution. Many of these insurance programs provide experienced crisis management consultants to help a company manage and recover from such incidents efficiently and effectively in order to minimize loss. When putting together a risk management program, make sure to have first and third party coverage for product recall, including malicious contamination, business interruption, product extortion, product recall costs, rehabilitation expenses, replacement costs and consultant costs.

Defense initiatives: There is a difference between food safety processes, which protect food from unintentional contamination by products that are present in the production plant, and food defense initiatives, which protect from intentional tampering by unknown substances. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but food defense is key to protecting against tampering.

In 2016, the FDA issued a final rule on Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration and, as part of this initiative, released the Food Defense Plan Builder program, which assists food facility owners and operators with developing personalized food defense plans. This user-friendly tool should be quite valuable to your food defense strategy.

Regulation: The Food Safety and Modernization Act aims to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe by focusing on preventing contamination before it happens rather than simply responding to it. It requires mitigation strategies to be put in place in certain food facilities.

With these risk management strategies and the right insurance plan in place, companies can protect themselves and help mitigate their risks of food or product tampering.

Costs Climb as Companies Move to Mitigate Supply Chain Interruptions

Some 70% of companies have experienced at least one supply chain interruption during the past year, with an unplanned IT or telecommunications outage the leading cause, according to the eighth edition of the Business Continuity Institute’s (BCI) Supply Chain Resiliency Report, produced in association with Zurich Insurance Group.

Covering 526 respondents in 64 countries, the report studies the causes, costs, and frequency of such events while also looking at companies’ progress in responding to supply chain interruptions and mitigating further occurrences.

While 70% of respondents reported at least one supply chain interruption during the past 12 months, only 17% said they have had no supply chain disruptions, with 13% saying they did not know. Perhaps more alarming is the increase to 13%—from 3% previously—of respondents reporting more than 20 such incidents.

Also alarming is the upward trajectory of costs associated with supply chain disruptions. The portion of respondents reporting cumulative losses of more than € 1 million ($1,058,171.30) resulting from supply chain interruptions jumped to 34% in this year’s survey from just 14% previously.

An unplanned IT or telecommunications outage was the leading cause of a supply chain disruption for the fifth consecutive year, followed by a loss of talent or skills, which jumped to second place from fifth, and then cyberattack or data breach, which dropped to third place from second. Despite this drop, the portion of respondents which said that cyberattacks and data breach had a ‘high impact’ on their supply chains increased from 14% to 17%.

Reaching the top 10 for the first time was terrorism, which moved to ninth from eleventh, while currency exchange rate volatility had the largest move up the list of event causes, jumping to seventh from 20th last year and cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2012. Insolvency in a company’s supply chain also reentered the top 10 for the first time since 2012, moving from 14th to 10th.

Lost productivity (68%), increased cost of working (53%), and customer complaints received (40%) were listed as the top three consequences of a supply chain interruption by respondents. The perception of such incidents can also hurt a company, with damage to brand reputation/image (38%), shareholder/stakeholder concern (30%), and share price fall (7%) all named by respondents as consequences of a supply chain disruption.

“It is crucial to note that the percentage of organizations reporting reputational damage as a result of supply chain disruption is at its highest level since the survey began. As this coincides with greater media scrutiny and social media discussions related to organizations, this result might be a good opportunity to reflect on reputation management and how supply chain disruptions might translate into adverse publicity for a given organization,” said the report.

As threats and costs grow, there appears to have been at least some progress in more closely addressing the issue.

While the percentage of respondents without firm-wide reporting of supply-chain incidents remains high at 66%, the portion of those using firm-wide reporting has grown steadily across the past five reports, rising from just 25% of respondents in 2012 to 34% in the 2016 report, the latest. Similarly, the portion of respondents which employ no reporting has declined steadily from 39% in 2012 to 28% in 2016.

As reporting is on the rise, so too is the complexity of interruption incidents as external supply chains cause more incidents. The portion of respondents which said the majority of their interruptions came from external supply chains jumped to 24% from 9% previously, and the portion attributing at least a quarter of interruptions to external suppliers more than doubled to 34% from just 15% previously.

Even with reporting on the increase, however, insurance uptake appears to be declining. Just 4% of respondents said they were fully insured against supply chain losses, down from 10% previously, with small and medium-sized enterprises more likely to be uninsured, at just 39%, than large organizations at 62%.

“These variations in insurance uptake may indicate a need to revisit business continuity arrangements and risk transfer strategies pertaining to supply chain disruptions,” according to the report.

Examining U.S. Immigration’s Economic Impact

In last night’s third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle, immigration again emerged as a defining topic in discussion of both regulatory reform and the economy. With an increasing amount of immigration by highly skilled laborers—and, of course, the potential reputation impact on companies seen as giving more jobs to non-citizens or moving out of the country in pursuit of labor—changes in such policy have clear implications for risk professionals.

Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the economic impact of immigration in the United States. Overall, the researchers found that immigration over the past couple of decades has done more good than harm, creating positive impacts on the national economy and causing little lasting impact on the wages or employment levels of native-born Americans. “Immigration enlarges the economy while leaving the native population slightly better off on average,” the study said, also pointing out increases in innovation, entrepreneurship and technological change across the economy. “The prospects for long run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants,” the researchers reported.

Some of the study’s key findings and conclusions include:

  • When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small. To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.
  • There is little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers. As with wage impacts, there is some evidence that recent immigrants reduce the employment rate of prior immigrants. In addition, recent research finds that immigration reduces the number of hours worked by native teens (but not their employment levels).
  • Some evidence on inflow of skilled immigrants suggests that there may be positive wage effects for some subgroups of native-born workers, and other benefits to the economy more broadly.
  • Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.
  • In terms of fiscal impacts, first-generation immigrants are more costly to governments, mainly at the state and local levels, than are the native-born, in large part due to the costs of educating their children. However, as adults, the children of immigrants (the second generation) are among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population.
  • Over the long term, the impacts of immigrants on government budgets are generally positive at the federal level but remain negative at the state and local level — but these generalizations are subject to a number of important assumptions. Immigration’s fiscal effects vary tremendously across states.

“The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration—including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship—with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term,” said Francine D. Blau, Frances Perkins Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and professor of economics at Cornell University, and chair of the panel that conducted the study and wrote the report. “Where negative wage impacts have been detected, native-born high school dropouts and prior immigrants are most likely to be affected.”

Check out the April cover story from Risk Management, “Welcome to America: Why Immigration Matters for Business,” for more on the risk management implications of immigration into the United States.