The new practice brings together MS&L's substantial issues management and litigation communications expertise under the leadership of MS&L's crisis expert and North American president Larry Kamer. The practice will include the following four senior MS&L executives who are experts in media, healthcare and issues management, and will expand in the future with country-specific leaders in Europe:
-- Paul Gallagher: SVP and director of media strategy. Gallagher joined MS&L in April 2006 from CBS News' "60 Minutes."
-- Peter Pitts: SVP, global health affairs and former associate commissioner for external relations at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
-- Don Hannaford: SVP and managing director of MS&L's Washington, D.C. office. Hannaford has extensive crisis communications and public affairs expertise.
-- Pal Jebsen: Chairman of MS&L Sweden and partner in the JKL Group, one of the leading corporate communications consultancies in the Nordic region.
This group will focus on helping clients effectively navigate and contain potential damage that comes from issues emerging from an increasingly litigious environment. Their new white paper, "America's Legal System Is Dangerous To Its Health," is now available for review.
"Every time the FDA posts an adverse event on Medwatch or announces a label change, or tough questions are raised at advisory committee meetings, it's like waving a red flag in front of the plaintiff's bar," said Mark Hass, global chief executive officer of MS&L. "Our team of senior crisis and issues management, media and healthcare experts will help our clients through MS&L's unique point of view on dealing with crisis and litigation matters."
Over the last several months, the pharmaceutical industry has been witness to the kinds of scrutiny big tobacco firms and asbestos companies saw in the '80s and '90s. Recent headlines have questioned the autonomy of the FDA, the efficacy of and ethical issues surrounding clinical trials, the suppression of adverse effects of drugs on patients, and the potential for pharmaceutical companies to trade off patient safety for increased market share and profit.
In a recent article (April 22, 2006) in The New York Times, reporter Alex Berenson writes that "the next wave of drug lawsuits is coming," following Merck's 11,500 suits over Vioxx, its arthritis drug. The drugs now under attack include Seroquel, an antipsychotic medicine from AstraZeneca; Ortho-Evra, a birth control patch from Johnson & Johnson; Prempro, a hormone therapy for women from Wyeth; and Fosamax, an osteoporosis medicine made by Merck. Plaintiffs' lawyers, Berenson says, "are trying, at least rhetorically, to link their suits to the Vioxx litigation, asserting that the drugs have serious side effects that their makers did not disclose." But lawyers who defend drug companies say that the increase in pharmaceutical lawsuits is "a reflection of changes in the plaintiffs' bar, not a reflection of the dangers of the drugs." In fact, many industry experts agree that prescription medicines are safer now than ever.
"The media crisis environment pharmaceutical companies find themselves in is now directly related to what happens in the courtroom," said Larry Kamer. "Our job will be to help our clients navigate this environment so that they are treated fairly in the courtroom - and in the court of public opinion."
About the Team
For more than 25 years, Larry Kamer has worked with high profile individuals and executives in the successful resolution of difficult corporate and public affairs issues, specializing in those involving risk, controversy, litigation, rumors and crisis. He has spearheaded several nationally prominent crisis management assignments involving labor disputes and labor practices, product contamination and recalls, accidents, lawsuits and criminal investigations. His clients have included Nike; General Motors; Procter & Gamble; The Home Depot; British Airways; the American Red Cross; Safeway and numerous hospitals and major law firms. He is frequently cited as an expert source in news media accounts of the handling of corporate crises.
In his 10-year career at CBS News' "60 Minutes," Paul Gallagher produced investigative segments for senior correspondent Mike Wallace on a variety of industries and topics including corporate scandals, bioterrorism, drug safety, military programs and genetic testing. Before joining "60 Minutes," he worked at National Public Radio where he produced segments for Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In 2001, he received the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) award for best reporting for an investigation of the Marine Corps' V-22 aircraft program. He is also a seven-time Emmy nominee for outstanding feature news story and investigative journalism. At MS&L, Gallagher works with MS&L's team of crisis and media specialists to provide issues management strategy and counsel to many of the firm's top corporate, consumer and pharmaceutical clients.
Peter Pitts counsels MS&L's clients in the healthcare and public affairs sectors on issues pertaining to pharmaceuticals, food and healthcare policy. Prior to joining MS&L, he was FDA's Associate Commissioner for External Relations. As FDA's "Chief Messaging Officer," Pitts' challenge was to clearly define FDA's brand image and to communicate the agency's main themes to its many constituencies. He is one of the country's most respected writers and counsellors of strategic leadership communication and is a frequent contributor and commentator to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Health Affairs, The Boston Globe, The Washington Times, Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, The San Francisco Examiner, Investor's Business Daily, Pharmaceutical Executive, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, among others.
In addition to directing the operations of MS&L's Washington, DC office, Don Hannaford provides senior issues and crisis counsel to several of the agency's top clients. Hannaford has directed issues management and public affairs programs for a range of corporate and international clients such as Mitsubishi Motors; Nike; the American Medical Association; Blue Cross/Blue Shield of the National Capital Area; Eli Lilly and Company; Takeda Pharmaceuticals NA; sanofi-aventis; W.R. Grace and the Cleveland Clinic. Hannaford began his public affairs career on Capitol Hill, serving in the office of a U.S. Senator. He subsequently worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior, first in the Office of Territorial and International Affairs and then as a public affairs manager with the Minerals Management Service. He also served as director of political communications and advertising for the Republican National Committee.
Pal Jebsen has almost 30 years of consulting experience in public relations and public affairs in Europe. He specializes in corporate positioning, preparedness planning, crisis management/crisis communications and brand management communications, working for a variety of national and international clients. Jebsen spent 29 years with Burson-Marsteller, with roles ranging from a General Manager in the Stockholm office, European and global client leader to overall Chairman of Burson's Nordic operations. Over the years Jebsen has been a frequent contributor to planning crisis programs, including training and active participation in several client crisis management groups. He serves as an officer in the reserves in the Royal Norwegian Navy as a Commander by Defence Command North-Norway, and as Public Affairs Officer in the NATO Information Corps. He is a member of the board of the Swedish-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm (Norsk-Svenska Handelskammaren), the Friends Foundation-Pupils against mobbing and the Swedish Chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities (Ronald McDonald Barnfond). He also serves as chairman of the Swedish Steering Committee of the US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).
About Manning Selvage & Lee
MS&L (www.mslpr.com) is one of the world's leading global public relations firms. We achieve our mission - to be more important to our clients - by delivering world class media relations, acting as partners and advisors, powering clients' businesses with proven methods and tools for strategic planning, corporate and product branding, corporate reputation, crisis management, and stakeholder relations. MS&L is the winner of the 2006 PRWeek PR Innovation of the Year and Best Use of the Internet awards.
MS&L is a member of the Publicis Groupe SA (Euronext Paris: 13057, NYSE: PUB). Its activities span 109 countries on six continents and include advertising, marketing services, media counsel and buying, media sales and specialized communications. For more information, visit www.publicis.com.