Sunday, December 16, 2018
The consulting firm McKinsey is a leading employer of graduates of elite law schools, business schools, medical schools, and other professional programs. The New York Times recently ran a piece attempting to link McKinsey to regimes that abuse human rights. McKinsey's response appears below.
Readers of this blog are probably familiar with how uneven in quality New York Times coverage can be in the higher education context. I would encourage readers not to jump to conclusions about McKinsey based on N.Y. Times coverage.
Note: I worked as consultant at McKinsey in New York approximately 10 years ago. I have published in the N.Y. Times within the last 3 years.
From Thomas Seitz, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company:
As you may have seen, The New York Times ran an article yesterday about our work in Southeast Asia, China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. We realize this article, along with other recent coverage of our Firm, has raised questions. We therefore want to take this opportunity to respond, especially as we expect The New York Times to continue to write about our Firm.
We knew The Times had an agenda when a friend of the Firm forwarded us an email he received from one of the authors of yesterday’s article seeking information about connections, “no matter how tenuous,” between our Firm and “institutions that support anti-democratic activities” in a certain country. He added that such tenuous connections would be “of great interest to our readers.” We nevertheless engaged with the journalists over the past five months to try to correct facts and help them understand our Firm’s approach to client service and selection.
With yesterday’s story, The Times selectively uses a handful of engagements and one office retreat to fundamentally mischaracterize our Firm’s presence in large parts of the world. In building their narrative, the reporters ignored or discounted facts that did not support their argument. They bent unobjectionable facts, used innuendo and implied causality to build a deeply misleading account of how we operate.
As a global Firm, we fundamentally disagree with the assertion that our colleagues in Southeast Asia, China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East should not be serving clients where we have a demonstrated record of making a positive difference in the countries where they live, and on behalf of their fellow citizens. Together, these countries represent more than two billion people.
Indeed, the authors do concede that many other businesses operate legally in these markets, but they conclude that it is somehow different when McKinsey does so because “[no other firms] have the stature to confer credibility quite like McKinsey, a confidante for 92 years to many of the world’s most admired companies.”
A few points to keep in mind in light of this higher bar:
□ □ □
As a global Firm, we are proud of the positive contributions we deliver in all the geographies in which we are present. We are disappointed that The Times’ article ignored the work we do that makes the lives of millions of people and thousands of clients better from the impact we deliver. This work is one of the many reasons we are proud of our Firm, our impact and our people.
We accept the scrutiny – including from the media – that comes with our work and leadership position in our profession. We also accept the commentary about the retreat in China, and we will be more thoughtful about such choices in the future. Yesterday’s article, however, crossed the line into criticism that is not justified by the facts of what we do and how we serve our clients.