Federation of Exchange Accommodators (FEA) – The lifeblood of tens of thousands of small businesses – the ability to engage in “like-kind exchanges” without having to pay onerous capital gains taxes on these trades – was at significant risk as the 2017 Tax Reform Act took shape, with real estate, manufacturing, and heavy equipment companies particularly threatened. Representing thousands of its members who facilitate these transactions, the FEA brought together a best in class team to drive its public and legislative narrative. Through a comprehensive public affairs and grassroots communications campaign – paired with robust lobbying on Capitol Hill – long-term protection for the Section 1031 provision was secured.
Canadian Private Equity Investor – A multi-billion-dollar global pension and private equity investor was unfairly – and unexpectedly – drawn into a cross-border trade dispute between U.S. and Canadian aircraft manufacturers. Faced with the twin prospects of crippling financial repercussions and lasting reputational damage, the investor took decisive action. Employing a strategic communications initiative – in parallel with the legal process – that simultaneously targeted Washington decision-makers and influencers, a positive narrative was put in place before opinions hardened. This positioning created the necessary daylight between the organization’s wide array of investments and the aerospace manufacturer’s intra-industry challenges – and buttressed the investor’s reputation in the U.S. financial marketplace, a key target for growth. Ultimately, the U.S. government agreed that the organization’s investments were made on a purely commercial basis and were competitive with the market’s largest institutional investors, important reinforcement of a key message.
AIG – The unprecedented forces that rattled the world economy in 2008 and 2009 put this Wall Street titan at the epicenter. Members of our team drove the company’s global crisis response from the War Room in Manhattan with additional teams deployed across the country and around the world. Faced with a cascade of challenges – from mounting criminal and civil litigation, Congressional investigations, involvement by state Attorneys General, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), multiple overseas regulators, the company’s former CEO Hank Greenberg, intense media scrutiny, and the concerns of more than 100,000 global employees – we successful navigated through all of them. To affect the needed fundamental change in perception, we positioned the new management team as cooperative with overseas regulators, who threatened to seize assets; flexible across a range of contentious issues (including the sale of assets and compensation for executives); and newly communicative with the global workforce. With a specific focus on litigation, financial, and Washington-focused communications, the reputation tide was eventually turned, the company stabilized, and began to repay its hundreds of billions of dollars in loans – with interest.
CITGO – Stigmatized by its Venezuelan ownership, this venerable consumer brand saw its market share and corporate reputation tumble. In fact, the company – in a fiercely competitive marketplace – was admired by its retailers and distributors, a message that had been suffocated for far too long. Through an award-winning, comprehensive, and multi-year communications engagement, team members staunched this reputational erosion and enabled a return to its status as an admired brand. The CITGO Fueling Good program leveraged the company’s positive profile at the local and community level as the primary driver of its strengthened reputation. Augmented with high-profile events, including the re-lighting of the iconic CITGO sign in Boston and the company’s ongoing philanthropic heating oil program, key performance indicators – fuel sales, branding of new stations, and margin growth chief among them – all turned positive.
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill – When the Deepwater Horizon exploded it set off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Knowing full well the intention of The White House, Congress, and other antagonists to hastily enforce liability – and to assign public responsibility – for the spill, key members of our team led the representation of the 10 percent, minority, non-operating investor in the Mississippi Canyon 252 lease, on which the Deepwater Horizon was drilling. With no operational involvement, the company was rapidly becoming collateral damage. We immediately established a succinct chronicle of the disaster – and in so doing, made it clear that the company’s U.S. subsidiary was simply a passive investor. In the ensuing months, members of our team worked closely with the media, regulators, and legislators to successfully cement an extremely low public profile for this entity, enabling quick and favorable settlements with the Department of Justice, the Gulf Coast states, and its business partners.
OneWeb – An ambitious effort to launch a next generation constellation of 900 low Earth orbit satellites to provide reliable, global Internet connectivity was at a crucial juncture. The entrepreneurial Founder and Executive Chairman was about to embark on a roadshow with institutional investors to raise the next tranche of capital. Working with the company’s lead British and U.S. bankers, we coached the OneWeb team ahead of their investor presentations – meetings that ultimately led to a series of successful investments that now includes more than $1 billion from SoftBank.
Lender Processing Services & “Robo Signing” – During the height of the post-financial crisis foreclosure spike, the nation’s leading provider of business solutions to the mortgage and real estate industries experienced relentless litigation and assault from several U.S. Attorneys, multiple state Attorneys General, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the trial bar, and shareholders – with all of their attention focused on so-called “robo signing” that had been a small part of the company’s legacy. Members of our team put in place a comprehensive strategy that created a new corporate narrative, supported by the ongoing change in executive leadership. As a result, the company experienced significant stock price appreciation following its first earnings release under the new leadership, which reinforced a positive dramatic shift in tone in the investment community – and the eventual settlement of its outstanding investigations and investigations.
Borse Dubai & NASDAQ – When a nascent Middle East stock exchange announced plans to enter into an agreement with the much larger, U.S.-based NASDAQ Stock Market, members of our team directed the full range of strategic communications to announce this transformational merger – and ensure its regulatory approval. Long-term inoculation was the foundation of this program, as critics were isolated and, thus, quickly abandoned their contrarian stance. As part of an international team of attorneys, investment bankers, and government relations professionals, we helped create an environment whereby the transaction’s review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was approved without a single divestiture.
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. – Working with the global law firm of White & Case, we undertook a proactive communications campaign on behalf of Stolt-Nielsen S.A., a Norwegian shipping company, in its criminal antitrust dispute with the Department of Justice. In seeking the largest antitrust fine in history, the Justice Department breached its 2002 promise of amnesty to the company. Members of our team advanced a positive effort and reframed the entire issue to focus on the government’s prosecutorial overreach and broken promises, aided by the recruitment and deployment of third party supporters. After a six-week trial (where we joined the trial team in court every day), a federal judge dismissed the government’s indictment in late 2007, and the Justice Department announced on Christmas Eve 2007 that it would end the case and not appeal.
Lorillard Tobacco – Confronted with a new challenge in the always contentious tobacco industry, key team members devised and implemented a Washington and grassroots focused communications strategy to overcome the FDA’s determined efforts to ban menthol cigarettes – a result that would have bankrupted the oldest tobacco company in the U.S. We drove public opinion broadly – and especially in key Congressional districts, on social media, and with the financial community. The successful two-part strategy first created a bulwark against the perception that this regulation was inevitable, and then pivoted to turn the proposed policy into a broad-based assault on consumer choice. With the addition of a targeted advertising campaign that we created and the deployment of advocates with a focus on key geographic, affinity, investor, and other constituencies, the future of the company’s most valuable product was protected.
LGT Bank – When the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) identified the Principality of Liechtenstein’s Royal Family-owned bank as part of a billion dollar-plus offshore tax avoidance and tax shelter investigation, the potential fallout held the prospect of significant negative media attention for the Royal Family and the bank’s customers. Drawing on their relationships with the media who cover the financial markets and Congress, members of our team positively shaped – and minimized – the ensuing coverage via a focus on other, larger banks. At the same time, we guided executives and members of the Royal Family through the PSI process as we helped develop, and announce, the bank’s own self-created reforms. Ultimately, the bank paid no fines or penalties and kept its clientele intact.
Leading Pharmaceutical Company – A leading pharmaceutical manufacturer – with operations in ten countries around the world that distribute more than 1,100 chemical compounds used principally as raw materials or finished products – recognized the need to be prepared for the full range of potential crisis situations it could face. To mitigate this risk, we built a detailed crisis communications plan, following a proven model to assess and measure the attendant threats, create the necessary internal crisis team structure and protocols, develop detailed responses to anticipated scenarios, draft the necessary messages and materials, and outline customized means of delivery mapped to key stakeholders. A subsequent day-long Crisis Training Exercise attended by the company’s executive team, and key board members, simulated the intense deadlines and unpredictable nature of a crisis and drove further refinement of the plan – and provided valuable real-time experience for senior management.