By Alan Murray and Lucas Laursen
December 18, 2018

Good morning.

What do you do when you are under attack by the press? In the age of Trump, apparently, you fight back hard.

That’s what Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky did yesterday. The company’s stock has fallen more than 12% since Reuters published a story on Friday claiming the company knew for decades it had traces of asbestos in its baby powder. Gorsky posted a video on the company website insisting the product “never contained asbestos,” and that the talc is the “purest, safest” on the market.

J&J has a reputation for putting the health of its customers first and makes much of its seven-decades-old credo which lists customers, employees, and communities before stockholders among its priorities. It reinforced that reputation back in 1982 when it pulled all its Tylenol off of store shelves after someone injected cyanide into a few pills, killing three people in Chicago. Gorsky hailed back to that incident, now a case study in crisis management, in his statement yesterday. “If we believed our products were unsafe, they would be off the shelf and out of the market immediately.”

McKinsey took a similar tack yesterday, fighting back against a New York Times story about its work in authoritarian countries: “As a global firm, we fundamentally disagreed with the assertion that our colleagues in Southeast Asia, China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East should not be serving clients where we have a demonstrated record of making a positive difference in the countries where they live, and on behalf of their fellow citizens.” The company did acknowledge, however, a problem with holding a retreat four miles from an Uighur internment camp in Western China and said “we will be more thoughtful about such choices in the future.”

More news below, including the CBS decision to deny Leslie Moonves his $120 million in severance.

Alan Murray


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