McKinsey & Co. likes to think it's the class of the consulting firm business.
That's now a very iffy proposition following news that Saudi Arabia used a McKinsey report to arrest or intimidate three "influencers," who were stirring up negative sentiment on social media about austerity measures in the Kingdom.
The firm now says it's "horrified" that its intelligence may have been used by the Kingdom to snuff out dissent.
Spare us the crocodile tears.
The nine-page January 2017 report called “Sample scan of Arabic social media analysis” listed three Twitter accounts that drove the discussion on austerity.
The New York Times reported Oct. 20 that Saudi operatives arrested one of the troublemakers. detained two brothers of another and the other Twitter account was shut down.
In a defensive stance, McKinsey downplayed its work, telling the Oct. 21 Financial Times that it was a “short internal document prepared by one our junior analysts as a showcase of basic social media capabilities, using publicly available documents.”
Some showcase, all right.
The firm said it found no evidence that the report was misused, but is “urgently investigating how and with whom the document was shared.” Free advice for McKinsey: hire a security firm to protect your work.
In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again for McKinsey.
It is the same outfit that in June was called out for its work on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid anger over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” that led to the separation of kids from their parents.
The consulting firm, which received more than $20M from ICE, cut ties with the federal agency after staffers raised questions about the work.
Kevin Sneader, managing director, noted that though McKinsey did not consult ICE on immigration policy it “will not, under any circumstances, engage in any work, anywhere in the world, that advances or assists policies that are at odds with our values.”
McKinsey is listed among the “knowledge partners” in the Future Investment Initiative bash that will be presided over by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the apparent triggerman for the Khashoggi hit.
One wonders if McKinsey staffers will act upon the knowledge that their firm’s report was used to stifle Saudi dissidents, Will they rise up and pressure the firm to say good riddance to the Kingdom?
Whether they do or not, McKinsey's reputation isn't what it used to be.