There was a nice article in the Canadian legal publication Law Times about the aftermath of the Maple Leaf Foods recall. The article praises Maple Leaf Foods for taking quick steps to salvage consumer confidence in the face of a Listeria outbreak across Canada. Specifically, the article discusses how Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain “immediately took responsibility for the plant outbreak.”
McCain is quoted as saying that “[g]oing through the crisis there are two advisors I’ve paid no attention to. The first are the lawyers, and the second are the accountants . . . . It’s not about money or legal liability, this is about being accountable for providing consumers with safe food.”
Yet the author of the Law Times article interviewed a Canadian corporate communications expert who noted that “McCain likely did listen to legal counsel.” The expert said that McCain’s “statement was an acknowledgment that if limiting legal liability was the main objective of the company’s response, it would be near impossible to restore its reputation.”
“‘The whole reason that Maple Leaf has been successful, and even though the recall has cost them $20 million in product [recalls], [is that] their reputation is intact,’” the expert is quoted as saying.
Finally, the best quote from the article: “[L]awyers need to understand that legal liability isn’t the only factor to consider in a crisis. But that’s not an easy pill for many lawyers to swallow. They believe future litigation is prejudiced if a CEO makes an apology, says [the expert].”