Preparing For Crisis Management

Sutherland partners Matt Gatewood and Susan Lafferty recently presented a Legal Quick Hit to the ACC’s Energy Committee on the fundamentals of preparedness for crisis management following significant operational failures.

The outline of that presentation is below:

  • Identify the risk inherent in every operation
    • Monitor the pulse of industry changes, including new hazards and threats
    • Provide systems for training new personnel and understanding industry trends
    • Define (and conduct training on) the roles and responsibilities in a crisis
    • Understand enforcement risks and potential exposure gaps
    • Know protections/exposure in commercial documentation for all projects
  • Be prepared to respond to all drivers of exposure following an incident
    • The media/public opinion
    • Anticipated political pressure points
    • Government investigations (from industry regulators and from Congress)
    • Legal team needs to be proactive, not reactive
    • Understand each response’s impact on strategy in inevitable litigation
  • Conduct comprehensive crisis management exercises to test and prepare company
    • Different from traditional environmental response planning drills
    • Focus is more on crisis management as opposed to incident response
    • Tests executive leadership team, legal team (inside and outside counsel)
  • Key best practices for crisis management following an incident
    • Legal team needs to play a leading role
    • Identify and balance immediate and long-term goals
    • Do not respond (or respond) in a way that makes the matter worse!
    • Do not hide, but choose words carefully
  • Common pitfalls in crisis management
    • Failing to disclose basic, undisputed facts quickly (hurts credibility)
    • Underestimating potential consequences, especially in future litigation
    • Failing to protect privilege, including privilege of internal investigation
    • Misplacing public focus on business interests
    • Failing to master the company’s own information (know what you have)
    • Blaming others unnecessarily


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