There is little room for interpretation here. As the federal investigation makes clear, both McKinsey and Purdue Pharma, whose representatives worked together in overseeing E2E, had full understanding of its purpose, i.e., “generating prescriptions from extreme high-volume prescribers” and pursued it anyway.
Even more disturbing is a 2017 presentation reviewed by the Times in which McKinsey presented additional options to help Purdue Pharma increase sales, among them the idea of offering a rebate to distributors for every OxyContin overdose attributable to the pills they’d sold. The presentation even included projections for how many customers at companies like CVS and Anthem would either die or develop opioid use disorders (at the former, for example, it projected 2,484 “events” in 2019, estimating a cost of $36.8 million to Purdue at a rate of $14,810 per rebate).
Despite not being charged for its involvement, internal communications from the company make clear its representatives became concerned about potential legal repercussions in 2018 when Massachusetts undertook a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and discussed the possibility of eliminating evidence. Having suddenly discovered ethics amid a growing PR disaster, McKinsey has since announced that it will no longer “advise any clients worldwide on opioid-specific business” and even issued a rare apology for its role in OxyContin sales.
Corporate equivalent of manslaughter
Those entering the cloistered world of McKinsey via the twenty-first-floor lobby of its Manhattan headquarters will pass a framed poster which lists the two ostensible pillars of the company’s mission: the first, to “observe high ethical standards”; the second, to “put client interests ahead of the Firm’s.” The Purdue episode, much like McKinsey’s involvement with ICE, is deeply clarifying about which generally takes precedence. No one put it better than Giridharadas, who recently remarked: “This is the banality of evil, MBA edition. They knew what was going on. And they found a way to look past it, through it, around it, so as to answer the only questions they cared about: how to make the client money and, when the walls closed in, how to protect themselves.”