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Examining the Leadership of McKinsey


Examining the Leadership of McKinsey


Eran Zimmerman tackles the issue of corporate responsibility and the involvement of McKinsey in the Oxycontin scandal. 

When I was a young McKinsey associate, 19 years ago, I was taught that while the amount of good any single member could produce for the Firm was limited, each one of us had the capacity for causing almost unlimited damage to the famed McKinsey brand. That piece of ancient Mckinsey wisdom came back to me while I was reading a NY Times article published Nov. 27 2020, airing McKinsey’s role in the horrendous crime of marketing opioids to millions of Americans.

The damage to human lives seemed indeed limitless. I figured that Purdue’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin was perhaps (bar the East India Company’s decision to expand into India) the single most harmful business decision by a corporation ever. The Times recounts in disturbing detail the work of two McKinsey senior hands in abetting and fostering Purdue’s disastrous activity. It appeared to me that through vigorously promoting this crime against humanity, these senior consultants have come close to producing that much feared lethal blemish on the great McKinsey name.

I only spent a relatively short time with the Firm, yet I always took pride in my illustrious alumni family. I therefore felt all the more disappointed and ashamed from discovering McKinsey’s involvement in this scandal, which for many epitomizes the derailment of Western capitalism: unbridled greed, disregard for human life and wellbeing and interference with regulators’ attempts to protect ordinary people from large corporations – all going almost completely unpunished. 


Key points in this article include:

  • McKinsey’s involvement in the scandal
  • When lives lost become “events”
  • Ethical leadership


Read the full article, Open letter to McKinsey from alum on Firm’s involvement in OxyContin scandal, on LinkedIn.