Global management consultancy McKinsey & Company is pushing back against a new book written by two New York Times journalists that purports to expose the hidden influence and controversial business behavior over the course of the firm’s history.
McKinsey is one of the world’s largest and most well-known consulting firms, and has spent nearly a century advising some of the largest and most powerful corporations and governments on earth, as well as playing a key role in shaping strategies and policies that influence the world’s economy and our society. The firm is no stranger to controversy, having been directly involved with or closely associated with a number of high-profile scandals in the past two decades, ranging from the Enron collapse, to close ties with Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian government, to being embroiled in South African government corruption.
The authors of “When McKinsey Comes to Town,” Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe, cite these and other examples in their exposé, arguing that the firm’s wide-ranging influence has led to a major shift in the global economy over the 20th century as employers worked to boost profits and undercut efforts to build an empowered workforce, including crushing domestic industrial unions, specializing in downsizing and outsourcing while simultaneously advising offshoring firms, and helping balloon executive salaries.
The firm has pushed back strongly against these and other allegations, stating that the book “fundamentally misrepresents our firm and our work” and arguing that there is a clear line between “advising” and “doing” that even the books’ authors acknowledge. McKinsey has also stated its unhappiness with the book’s lack of coverage of its taking culpability when it actually was at fault, citing its efforts to make operational changes associated with its advisory efforts to Purdue Pharma.
“We have invested more than $600 million to upgrade our legal, risk, and compliance capabilities, and hired some of the world’s top experts to lead those teams,” McKinsey said of its response to a scandal surrounding its efforts to help opioid drug manufacturers increase their profits in the midst of an addiction epidemic, the fallout of which also contributed to the 2021 downfall of its former CEO. “We now follow a global client selection policy more rigorous than any other in our industry.”
While the authors have grounded their work in well-documented evidence and research, the firm continues to reiterate that its mission to help clients make the world a better place is “as important as ever.”