Archives for October 2016

In My Own Words

It’s said that justice is blind. But justices can be blindsided, too.

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Courtesy of: Sebastian Kim, for Time Magazine

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg promoted her new book, My Own Words in an interview with Katie Couric. Seeming not to have availed herself of media training before her book tour, Justice Ginsburg found herself giving an opinion on a topic with which she was unfamiliar. Famous for her outspokenness on the Court, the justice was asked to comment on several athletes’ refusal to stand for the national anthem at the beginning of their games. She acknowledged their right to protest, but added that they would only exercise that freedom “if they want to be stupid.”

An opinion heard round the world, more for its source than for its sentiment. Justice Ginsburg was one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2015,’

Ms. Couric did exactly what an investigative journalist is meant to do: elicit answers to provocative questions. Being Ready for an interview means preparing answers ahead of time (Why I wrote My Own Words) (Some of my more controversial decisions have been …) (How the world and the court have changed since I went on the bench in 23 years ago in 1993) to smoothly address to questions.

After learning more about the athletes’ reasoning and intentions from a different bench, Justice Ginsburg swiftly apologized for her “harsh” comments. Because, even a Supreme Court Justice can sound unjust in the court of public opinion.

Pro-testing!

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” became Paul Newman’s mantra in his 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke.

Recently, popular San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick failed to communicate his reason for taking a knee vs. standing to observe the national anthem. Protesting police brutality of blacks is a justifiable cause by the football star who finally was quoted as saying “I’m not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

colin-kneeling

Photo courtesy of: USA Today

But Mr. Kaepernick failed to announce his stand (or in this case, not standing) beforehand, perhaps in a press conference or media interview and, therefore, his protest was totally misunderstood.

Notably, during the 28th annual salute to the military hosted at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, retired Navy Seals parachuted into the stadium to present a giant American flag to a crowd filled with former and current military. But Mr. Kaepernick continued to not stand. An angry fan described the action as, “extremely disrespectful,” and even argued that the quarterback “shouldn’t be playing football if he can’t stand up for his country and support the men and women who put their lives on the line.” Additionally, Mr. Kaepernick’s retaliation against police brutality exists within city justice systems, and does not extend to the military on a national level.

Other athletes have used their position of fame and influence to speak out against these same issues. NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul used presentation skills of poise, humility and persuasiveness to stand together at the opening of the 2016 ESPY Awards and verbally deliver a call to action.

“Kap” hasn’t had the media training that savvier pro-testers have … to know how to use the media as a communications tool. It’s all part of learning the media game and how to play it!

Fly Me to the Moon

How many EpiPens does it take to buy the CEO a corporate jet? At over $600 each per dose, you do the math.

That’s what Congress did when Mylan CEO Heather Bresch showed up in her corporate jet for hearings on the 600% increase in the cost of the life-saving drug over the last two years!

epipen

Photo Courtesy: Chicago Tribune

Taking a jet to a hearing in which she was cast as getting “filthy rich” at the expense of public health may not have been ideal, CNBC pondered after Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said,

“It is a little stunning to see that so much money could be spent on whether you’re traveling around on a jet while we have this discussion here about whether Americans are being bilked for a lifesaving drug like EpiPen.”

And it appears to be a family affair. According to USA Today, Mylan’s EpiPen4Schools program requires that schools that entered the program had to sign a noncompete agreement. Those schools didn’t know that the president of the National Association of State Boards of Education who was lobbying them to join it was actually Ms. Bresch’s mother.

In her defense, Ms. Bresch retored:

“I certainly thought it was a cheap shot to bring my mother into this.”

And Ms. Bresch’s cheap shots didn’t begin with Mylan.

Fortune Magazine, in a tough profile, once described her career as being full of “ethically messy mishaps and public relations gaffes.” At least two involve her own father, Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.

The most scandalous occurred in 2008 shortly after she was named the company’s chief executive and focused on the master’s degree in business administration from West Virginia University that was listed on her resume. It turns out she never got it. An investigation by the school, prompted by a newspaper report, found that some administrators had added courses and grades to her transcript to make it look as if she had completed the required coursework.

In 2015, Ms. Bresch caused another firestorm when she merged Mylan with a company in the Netherlands. The transaction is known as a “tax inversion” and involves joining with a foreign entity to move a legal corporate headquarters abroad. Doing so provides a major advantage: trading U.S. corporate taxes, which at 39 percent are among the highest in the world, for a tax bill from a different country that is presumably less. Such moves are so unpopular with the American public that only a handful of U.S. companies have attempted them. Members of Congress — including her father — denounced such tactics as undermining the U.S. economy.

According to CBS Chicago, the EpiPen is now so expensive that many families are struggling to cover the cost of the potentially lifesaving medicine. A standard 2-pack now costs between $600 to $700 and it expires every year. The price has prompted outrage among many consumers who have taken to social media to complain that they can no longer afford the potentially lifesaving medicine.

How Mylan pulled this off is a textbook case in savvy branding, combined with a massive public awareness campaign on the dangers of child allergies. Parents are encouraged or frightened into believing that the life-saving medicine is needed everywhere … in the car, in the kitchen, at grandmas, at school, on the playing fields! Along the way, EpiPen’s wholesale price rose a sickening 400 percent from about $57 each when Mylan acquired the product.  In a live interview on CNBC, Ms. Bresch admitted that “we do subsidize the rest of the world, which is why the prices for EpiPens are much lower in Germany and Canada.”

Then there’s the matter of Ms. Bresch’s salary and other perks, which are unusually high, even in this era of crazy compensation for company executives. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, while Ms. Bresch’s reported compensation fell to $18.9 million last year from $25.8 million in 2014, her total compensation went from $2,453,456 to $18,931,068 from 2007 to 2015. That’s a striking 671 percent increase. That period coincides with the time when Mylan acquired the rights to EpiPens and steadily hiked the average wholesale price from about $55 to $320.

Similar recent unexplained price hikes by Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals have pretty much ruined the companies and forced their CEO’s to resign.

Private jets not withstanding, we wish these executives a healthy retirement!