Feb 2, 2019

McKinsey, the new Facebook

McKinsey Managing Director Dominic Barton. Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

McKinsey & Co., the global consulting firm businesses and governments quietly use for complex and controversial projects, is getting pounded for its practices and secrecy. 

Why it matters: Like Facebook, McKinsey is getting hit with sustained negative media coverage and deep scrutiny for its techniques and mystery. Also like Facebook, The New York Times in particular sees it as a juicy investigatory target. 

Coverage from the past year:

  • Today: "In legal papers released in unredacted form on Thursday, the Massachusetts attorney general said McKinsey had helped the maker of OxyContin fan the flames of the opioid epidemic. McKinsey’s consultants, the attorney general revealed, had instructed the drug company, Purdue Pharma, on how to 'turbocharge' sales of OxyContin."
  • Front page, Dec. 31: "Attached to its evaluation was a single PowerPoint slide in which McKinsey described what it said was the potential partner’s strategy for winning mining permits. It included ... 'use of bribes.'"
  • Front page, Dec. 16: "This year’s McKinsey & Company retreat in China was one to remember. Hundreds of the company’s consultants frolicked in the desert, riding camels over sand dunes and mingling in tents linked by red carpets. Meetings took place in a cavernous banquet hall that resembled a sultan’s ornate court."
    • Among the photos: "Tents linked by red carpets at a McKinsey & Company retreat this year in Kashgar, China. ... Participants in the retreat chronicled activities like camel rides on Instagram. ... The Instagram posts from the retreat were in stark contrast to the nearby humanitarian crisis."
  • Front page, Nov. 4: "McKinsey produced a report that may have aided [a Saudi] crackdown on dissidents. ... McKinsey’s work in the kingdom grew from two Saudi projects in 2010 ... to almost 600 projects from 2011 to 2016."
  • July 10: "McKinsey Ends Work With ICE Amid Furor Over Immigration Policy."
  • Front page, June 27: "When the godfather of management consulting landed its biggest contract ever in Africa, it made the worst mistake in its storied nine-decade history."

Be smart: McKinsey, which was used to keeping a low profile in deference to its clients, now is likely to face a prolonged, painful examination of its dealings around the world that long were standard practice, but now will be seen in a new light.

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