McKinsey & Russia (and China) | National Review

McKinsey & Russia (and China) | National Review


McKinsey & Company logo at Viva Tech in Paris, France, in 2019. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

There’s an old saying about the need for a long spoon when supping with the Devil. There’s another about rats and a sinking ship.

I can’t think why they have just come to mind.

The Financial Times:

Accenture axed its entire 2,300-person business in Russia on Thursday while McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group moved to suspend all client work there, as the world’s largest professional services groups join western companies’ flight from the country.

Days after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, McKinsey and BCG had said they would not work for Russian government entities but had stopped short of dropping other clients, including state-owned groups.

Without wishing to be impolite, that does seem to have been a rather fine distinction.

McKinsey has now said, the FT reports, that it will “suspend all client work there once its other projects ended.”

To be fair, it is important to note that many of the people who have lost their jobs at Accenture (and, presumably, at McKinsey) will be Russians who have played no role, whether passively or actively, in the horrors now being inflicted on Ukraine. They are just trying to make their way in a country not known for the opportunities it offers (and many, indeed, will doubtless be part of the support staff that any office needs). There were plenty of such people to be found in Moscow and St. Petersburg after the 1998 financial crisis had apparently wrecked their prospects in a nation opening up after the long communist nightmare. It seemed, a Russian friend told me at the time, “like the end of the world.”

And, in the years after Putin was first elected, quite a few of them (at least initially) will probably have supported him, drawn in by his promise of a more disciplined Russia where such a catastrophe could never happen again. I also note that Accenture’s head office is/was in Moscow, for many years a city — like some other major Russian urban centers — where enthusiasm for Putin has long been, shall we say, restrained, and, indeed, where some remarkably brave people have been taking a stand against the invasion of Ukraine.

All that said, I could not help recalling a story I posted about McKinsey in January last year.

It began like this:

McKinsey & Company (“our commitment to making a difference in society is embedded in everything we do”) is one of those firms that like to emphasize how much they support “stakeholder capitalism”:

“Business leaders should embrace the apparent contradiction—of low trust and high expectations—and make the choice to demonstrate that they see their mission as serving not only shareholders but also customers, suppliers, workers, and communities. The common term for this is “stakeholder capitalism” and we think its time has come…”

I also linked to this story from the Moscow Times.

An extract:

The Moscow office of leading U.S. consultancy McKinsey & Company banned its staff from attending an unauthorized protest in the capital in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Saturday and warned them against voicing online support, according to an email sent to McKinsey personnel seen by The Moscow Times…

And I quoted from a subsequent story from the same newspaper:

The managing partner of U.S consultancy McKinsey & Company’s Moscow office has messaged his staff “clarifying” an earlier email banning them from attending an unsanctioned protest for jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“Some of you have raised concerns about my email to the office yesterday. I admit that the Firm’s policy was incorrectly reflected in that email,” Vitaly Klintsov wrote on Saturday.

He added a clarifying statement saying, “McKinsey supports its employees’ rights to participate legally and in a personal capacity in civic and political activities across the countries we operate. The recognition of these rights is unqualified…

You can see more in the original post.

Since then, McKinsey’s preaching of the virtues of ESG, stakeholder capitalism, and all the rest of that honeyed, insidious (but profitable) flimflam has continued.

From January 2022:

Purpose and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues represent critical chal­lenges for both boards and executive teams. They have become particularly salient since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced corporations to scrutinize their responsibilities and role in society….

Nevertheless, McKinsey carried on its work in Russia, advising corporations and other institutions, some of which almost certainly had more than a tangential relationship to the complex networks that underpin the current regime in Moscow.

Food for thought.

Oh yes, McKinsey is also busy at work in a China that is rapidly evolving into a fascist state. NR’s Jack Butler touched on the consultancy’s involvement in that country here. Quite a bit of that business appears to involve advising the country’s state-owned companies (and ultimately there is, in China, no distinction — at least where it counts — between a state-owned company and the state).

As the extent, depth and sophistication of China’s challenge to the U.S. becomes evident, that’s something worth noting.

The same cannot be said for McKinsey’s ESG and stakeholder sermons, confections of interest only to connoisseurs of hypocrisy and corporatist sweet talk.





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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.