How an Elite Consulting Firm Helped America’s Opioid Epidemic From Bad To Worse

McKinsey consultants gave 27 times more money[23] to Hillary Clinton’s campaign than to Donald Trump’s. The members of my team attended the Women’s March while serving an agency shaped by the man they marched against. The firm hires from top universities and many of its consultants have graduate degrees, both strong predictors[24] of liberal political tendencies.

Undergirded by an overriding loyalty to its clients’ interests, this ethos apparently does little to constrain the firm’s actual work.

A year ago, for example, the New York Times revealed[25] astonishing details about McKinsey’s role in aiding President Trump’s anti-migrant and detention policies. Having been retained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), its consultants reportedly made a series of recommendations so extreme that even some career ICE personnel grew uncomfortable — among them restricting the caloric intakes of people in detention, cutting spending on medical supplies, and streamlining the deportation process.

Elsewhere involved[26] with various despotic governments, corrupt figures, and authoritarian regimes, McKinsey’s involvement in the Trump administration’s cruel immigration agenda is just one incident among many to have earned it unwanted scrutiny in recent years — and almost certainly won’t be the last.

Commitment to the bottom line

As the Purdue Pharma case quite morbidly illustrates, McKinsey’s managerial expertise and logistical know-how are highly sought after for good reason: when a corporation or government comes calling, it can be reasonably sure that the firm’s consultants will execute their assigned task with zeal, efficiency and an unflinching commitment to the bottom line (whatever it happens to be).

Though the company has not been charged or sued by the federal government, its involvement in Purdue Pharma’s activities was clearly not passive or peripheral. As the settlement agreement[27] released by the DOJ makes abundantly clear, McKinsey consultants worked closely with Purdue Pharma management both to identify the causes of declining sales and to formulate a strategy by which they could be reversed.

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