Can Companies Get Ahead of Bad Legal Press?
Though most in house and general counsel hate to admit it, there is a really simple way for any company to get ahead of bad legal press: settle early and confidentially as soon as that first pre-litigation demand letter arrives. Legally, that might not be the best move, but corporations have more to worry about than just what's the best legal move.
As recently displayed by Politico, the media thirsts for sensational legal news and will even present an internal legal hold as some sort of proverbial nail in the they-must've-done-something-wrong-coffin. However, as any litigation attorney knows, a litigation hold is nothing really to write home about, though when a company receives a demand letter, or just a demand for the preservation of evidence, sending out the type of notice Politico reported on is par for the course.
Avoiding Media Leaks
Before sending out a litigation hold company-wide, it may not be the worst idea to employ some email tracking software to ensure that your message does not get communicated outside the organization, at least, not without consequences to whomever leaked it.
Keeping legal claims quiet has immense value, especially due to the immense power of social media. For both a company and a claimant, it is particularly important in the early stages when a complaint may still not have been filed in court that nothing gets leaked. This is because that value of keeping a claim quiet can benefit both sides of a dispute.
When confidential information is leaked, though the media may think they're just doing their job, both parties to the dispute have now lost the ability to resolve their dispute privately.
Transparency After Privacy
If it is clear that a confidential resolution to a dispute cannot be arrived at before it hits the courts or newspapers, then consumer facing companies should seriously consider being as transparent as possible with the public, and never trashing their adversary. The public cares about a company's reputation for honesty and openness, and flipping a controversy on its head by taking accountability could prevent a PR nightmare.
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