THE BIG PITCH: How can you distance your clients from their employees who get in trouble?

JAMES LAFORCE, LaForce & Stevens, New York

JAMES LAFORCE, LaForce & Stevens, New York

JAMES LAFORCE, LaForce & Stevens, New York

This is an instance where good counsel can minimize damage to a client’s

reputation, while still doing the right thing for everyone involved

While you can’t always run a company like a family, I’d ask management

to consider what they’d do if one of their own family members got into

trouble. One, maintain a stance of innocent until proven guilty: don’t

rush to assume the employee is in the wrong. Two, stay visible and ahead

of the story.

We’d push to get one of the company’s high-ranking, media-trained

executives to make a statement, followed by a brief Q&A. Three, a little

suspension never hurt anybody. There is a difference between compassion

and co-dependence.

Assuming the employee is out on bail, I would not want him/her in the

office. And lastly, think about the other employees. Management should

be sensitive to company morale, especially among those who worked

directly with the employee in question. They’ll be watching closely how

the matter is handled - it could happen to one of them someday.

CHRIS ROSICA, Rosica Mulhern & Associates, Paramus, NJ

We had a situation last year where one of our clients had a handful of

employees charged with drug trafficking while on the job. Our suggestion

to the client was that they stick to the following statement and not

deviate from it: ’Unfortunately, this problem existed with a small group

of employees who took advantage of a situation. We were shocked to learn

of their involvement.

Ever since we started in business, 40 years ago, we have maintained an

atmosphere of being a family company. As such, we have had zero

tolerance for illegal drugs.’ The client followed our advice, and it

quickly became a non-story. In addition, we recommended to our client

that they designate one company spokesperson to handle all media


DAN SONDHELM, Morrison/Carlisle Strategic Financial Relations,

Alexandria, VA

So much about how you handle employee malpractice depends on the


One way of dealing with employees accused of legal wrongdoing is to

stick by them until they are proven guilty or found innocent - such as

how the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens are handling the case of accused murderer

Ray Lewis.

Companies might let the legal system run its course, and then decide

what to do. If the employee is found guilty, then they need to

demonstrate that the bad apple is not a reflection of the company’s

employees as a group. Overall, it’s important to keep your audience of

suppliers, customers, analysts and the news media informed. Don’t wait

and be defensive.

AMY OREBAUGH, Internet Wire, Los Angeles

First, face the situation and honestly address it. Find out exactly what

happened immediately. Then, address your core audiences - the press,

your investors, customers, analysts and employees - with a written

statement, letting them know you are fully aware of the incident and are

working to resolve it as quickly as possible. Speed is incredibly

important at this time. Dispel any rumors or fears by confronting them

right away.

Make every effort to secure the safety of everyone involved - release a

cautionary statement, recall products, cancel an event, postpone a


Then, deal directly with the employee involved and determine the

appropriate action to take. Be sure to consult your attorneys throughout

the situation.

Overall, provide honest and complete information at all times to all


Mistakes are often more easy to forgive when others know that you are

working diligently to resolve the issue quickly.

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