What do you do when the CEO calls an audible with a regulator?
The New York times reported last week on challenges that medical device maker Boston Scientific is facing with the FDA. The Times mentioned previous issues faced by Schering-Plough a few years ago. Specifically noted was a meeting that then CEO Raul E. Cesan had with FDA officials at a company plant under scrutiny in Puerto Rico:
As the executives recall that day in Puerto Rico, Mr. Cesan, a take-charge man known for a somewhat autocratic style, with his color rising told subordinates to leave the room, saying that he wanted to talk to the regulators alone.
“Raul is an extremely aggressive guy,” one of the executives recalled, “but that kind of behavior doesn’t go over well with regulators. I don’t know what he said, but the next week we had inspectors crawling all over every one of our plants.”
There’s no sign that a Schering-Plough corporate attorney was present at the meeting. The challenge is to remind the CEO that dealing with key regulators is a martial art and brute force rarely works over the long run. If you haven’t done this before the meeting, there’s no real way to do it once it’s underway. Unless you pull the old spill-the-water-on-the-CEO trick.
That one’s usually reserved for a potential antitrust violation where you want to leave and you want everyone to remember that you left.
Thus this becomes a key item for any GC briefcase before big off-site meetings: