Everybody chastising McKinsey for Purdue pharma, should ask the question if your company would have done anything differently? Would you have done differently if you are on that team? I am not defending McKinsey. I am just curious on the “holier than though” posts making the rounds. We all do work for Big Pharma, Big Tech, Defense, Big Agri - all who peddle in morally ambiguous business.

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I don’t blame the Business Analyst or Consultant level in this case - once staffed this would be a hard one for some who are just starting their careers to pull out of. The leadership on the case though (Principals and Partners) absolutely have blame and accountability for this. I’ve certainly worked with folks back in my BCG days at the Partner level that I found to not have the same morals as myself even in terms of how far to push basic capitalism and the answer is quite easy - stop working with them. Following the right leaders at these firms makes it quite easy to avoid ethical dilemmas I’ve found.

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I don’t mean it’s hard because there are no ways out or flexibility, I mean it’s hard because of the perceived risks to ones own career, relationships in the firm, etc. Not saying that isn’t the right call to make but a BA or Consultant is in a tougher spot early in career to make these calls vs leadership who have complete accountability in shaping the work, the client relationship, etc.

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Yes we would have. We turn clients away who we have ethical problems with. We spend more time on ethics than any other subject. We would never do such a thing ib a million years. And if we did every single low level consultant has the ability to put their foot down and stop it. We have an ethics hotline run by a third party to avoid conflicts of interest. I am personally very comfortable speaking candidly to the head of my practice. If I had to bring it to the board or the CEO, I could and they would be receptive. This would never happen at my firm in a million years

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No V in my name.

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Deloitte would be too busy doing PMO on their ERP implementation ✌️

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It ain't much but it's honest work

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When you get to the point where you’re making projections on the number of overdoses per client, there’s not a lot of ambiguity left to deal with

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I think the point is that when determining value based/alternative contracts, we talk about rebates for adverse events, including deaths. So while this is definitely morally stickier, how great is our work outside of the opioid space?

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Absolutely I would have objected. I can’t even imagine working for a partner that wants to directly pay for human suffering and death. It’s one thing to help a client sell a product that meets a need in the market place. This however was rewarding distributors and client for causing human pain and suffering.

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How can you possibly think that’s a reasonable comparison? Considering Purdue’s size and the fact that 2 partners were involved, this was probably a small project team. Everyone probably knew everything

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Not incentivizing the deaths of my fellow humans via drug overdose seems like a pretty low bar to clear. Feeling real confident I could avoid suggesting that. Even the least holy amongst us could clear that one...

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I’ve already openly refused to work with companies in the tobacco and arms industries so putting my money where my mouth is, at least a little bit

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I don't think anyone made that blanket statement. I only said that there is more to defense than making weapons, and the industry actually spans much more than what the word implies. But on that point, the intent of having armies and fighting power, is to maintain stability and safety of the people in the nation being defended. In the extreme example, If you invest nothing in defense, you will succumb to rogue nations and pirates. It is a necessity to maintain our lives. Unless you have a proposal to ban worldwide defense spending, we need to keep spending. Obviously we can argue about how much to spend and whether our killing technology is sufficiently advanced to deter other nations who are also developing their own killing technology, but defense is how we can continue to exist in this society, under our countries rule instead of another's. The moment a caveman had food or goods another caveman wanted was the moment we needed defense, and until this situation ceases, and we live in a world without want, this arms race will continue.

If I was one of the leaders of the firm, I would terminate the relationship with Purdue due to the risk. If I was the partner who signed off on that, I simply wouldn’t have done some and terminated my relationship with Purdue. If I was the EM, I’d actively try to avoid recommending anything like that. If not possible, ask to be staffed on another engagement. If that’s not possible, resign and never look back. A little tougher at the analyst level, but I’d still ask to be staffed on something else

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Lol bread on the table is laughable. Hundreds of thousands in compensation is way more than bread. It's lavish and excessive. We're greedy people, stop acting like we're desperate and barely surviving as a way to defend their actions.

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Morally ambiguous businesses? Big Pharma? The people who have made terminal acute diseases chronic conditions? The ones who are saving out literal asses in this pandemic? Big Tech? The people who have created the tools consults use every day? The ones who have developed a virtual economy that lets people like us keep working? Big ag? The people who feed us and have ushered an era of food prosperity the world has never known? Big Defense? You mean the folks who have allowed the US military to achieve its objectives in ways that minimize the danger to our troops and resulted in less collateral damage for civilians? No industry is without its flaws. And each of the ones above do have some practices that should be rethought, however, those issues are actually to much of really good things. But you’re silly if you think these are ‘morally ambiguous’ ones. At least have the common sense to list the Vice industries like tobacco, alcohol, and gaming.

likefunnysmart

This is how this Perdue shit happens. People give extra weight to the industry/company’s positive contributions (however thin they may be) and use it to downplay or explain away the real bullshit that they pull to make more $$$.

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I don’t have to wonder. When I was a lead on an engagement with a PE firm that had significant investments in PG&E, we found out the PE firm was strongly encouraging PG&E to ignore replacing old transmission lines which was ultimately a major factor in the fires they caused. My firm dropped them immediately.

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My firm serves some Tobacco clients. MANY of my coworkers have refused to work with Tobacco clients. I personally don't mind and have helped tobacco companies improve their marketing of non-combustibles. I would draw the line at efforts to acquire users (as opposed to gaining existing market share) or increase consumption. I'm actually more uncomfortable with the work we do around "extracting value" by raising the price of essentials.

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I should add that we do a risk assessment of pretty much any engagement with these clients, for obvious reasons.

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Yeah, plenty of projects have a degree of moral ambiguity. But TBH I’ve never worked on anything close to as morally bankrupt as that McK project.

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OP - agree with your point, sort of, but that spectrum of morally ambiguous corporate behavior is fairly wide. I think there’s a lot of work we all do for those industries that isn’t in support of a strategy that explicitly involves killing people. For example, doing an SAP upgrade for a big pharma is not in the same ballpark, even though it supports the company’s operation. It’s an interesting dilemma for all of us though - where would you draw your own line?

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Its the MD tax bracket talking!

McKinsey does this all the time. Every two years they ask for forgiveness. What moral dilemma? Give us all a break.

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Exactly. McK’s model is ask for forgiveness than to fix its own house.

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I’ve always wondered what I do in this type of situation, especially if you’re more junior on the team/company. Peer pressure and “going with the flow” are pretty big influencers on ones behavior, but I’d like to think if I saw emails suggesting destroying evidence that I’d say something and report

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That email was sent from one senior partners firm email to another personal email. Pretty sure no one below senior partner was cc’ed

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This is covered in ETHICS 101 in college guys...

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Yes and yes

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I likely wouldn’t refuse to work for a specific company or industry, but I would absolutely refuse to deliver, and actively fight against, a recommendation like what we are reading about with McK and Purdue.

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I wrote an article on the use of advanced analytics to identify and manage potential patient dependence on controlled substances in 2014. Leadership closed the door on that right quick. The irony is that I had led multiple engagements to do risk assessment and remediation on controlled substance monitoring programs for manufacturers and distributors. This was simply adapting the same SAP/Oracle business intelligence solutions in the provider/prescriber setting. The solution was already baked and packaged. So EYP at least made the decision that this wasn’t an offering they wanted to advocate for. The opioid epidemic wasn’t a surprise. The rate of increase began un-coincidentally in 2008 and accelerated. The DEA in my experience never declined a request to increase quota for production or import. We now have a millennial generation where tens of millions of people have been taking Schedule 2 amphetimines for 25 years or more. Who could possibly imagine that 25 or 30 years of daily consumption of methylphenidate might have negative long term effects? Is it possible that unchecked growth in this segment might have negative effects on public health?

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To reiterate the points made above, the main concern with the McK-Purdue situation is less the industry and more the specific recommendations they made. It’s increasingly becoming apparent from this and other leaks that McKinsey played an integral role in sustaining the opioid epidemic, which is orders of magnitude worse than doing an ERP implementation for an oil company. Yes, every consulting firm walks the line occasionally... but only one played such an explicit, active role in creating a public health catastrophe. Oh yeah, and don’t forget their recommendations around delegitimizing mothers whose children died of opioid overdoses. That’s comic-book villain level bad.

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