Author Richard Solomon is a conflicts and crisis management lawyer with 50 years of experience in business development, antitrust and franchise law, management counseling and dispute resolution including trials and crisis management.
Isnít it amazing that the rich and powerful think that all they have to do is put on some phony charade of repentance, and everyone will feel sorry for them; forgive them; and go away? You would think that people who can afford anything they want would avail themselves of resources that might keep them from doing irretrievable damage to their position in a crisis. Murdoch is said to have lost $ 750,000,000 already in this hacking adventure. Maybe he is just so incredibly wealthy that he can afford any loss so long as it aggrandizes his ego. Where is the point at which even a Murdoch canít afford the damage?
The Ken Lay gambit didnít work for Ken Lay and it wonít work for Rupert Murdoch. Saying that you have no knowledge of the salient facts and that those beneath you whom you trusted to do right have let you down and that you are just shocked is neither true nor believable.
Murdochís gambit to pretend contrite humiliation and apologize but give no useful information is so transparent that only an incredible ego can explain why it is used. Ken Lay used the same gambit and was convicted of felony misconduct that would have landed him in prison for many years had he not faked his death; held a quick funeral and ďcremationĒ and then left immediately for South America where he lives a life of luxury today. Is Murdoch going to become his playmate when the truth comes out that both he and his son knew what was going on; sanctioned it by ignoring it/pretending to ignore it; enjoyed the financial success that hackling brought to his companies and to every other company in the same business; and really couldnít care less who might have been compromised because of it?
For openers, it was impossible for Murdoch (if he really didnít know the facts) to have conducted a thorough investigation to ascertain what they were before he began his charade. Any believable person who really didnít know the facts would have conducted such an investigation prior to making any public statements. That he ran his mouth before that could be accomplished shows more that he really does know what was going on and that this is just transparent denial theater that no one with half a brain would believe.
He has the most expensive lawyers that money can buy Ė as did Ken Lay Ė but there are times when these guys really are not able to exert the influence upon their client that is required in order to avoid the ultimate calamity.
He should have said that he cannot comment right now because until he has had a chance to conduct a thorough investigation he cannot be certain that what he might say would be responsible. Even if he really does know the facts, he would then seem to be more responsible than the ridiculous plan of action he and his son are now pushing.
Then, when he really does know what his companyís files and involved people will reveal if put to it, he can configure a believable approach to the management of reputational and liability issues. Does he not appreciate that being caught out in deliberate lying will destroy the desired potential of what he might do later on?
Crisis management has to be guided by more competent resources than Ken Lay or Rupert Murdoch have used. They have to find someone who has the ability to tell them how it really works and show them the road to the least damaging result, even if in the process they donít appear as they hope to be perceived. They are not going to be perceived the way they wish anyway, and the way things are being handled now will certainly make that result much worse.