Morningstar’s Crisis Communications Playbook
Since 2020, Chicago-based financial services firm Morningstar has been under fire for acquiring an ESG (environmental, social, and governance) ratings business that has been quietly seeking to advance the goals of the BDS movement through investment advice. Since the activist-investor group JLens brought this issue to Morningstar and the larger pro-Israel community, Morningstar has worked not to address the root problem but, rather to make the associated PR problem go away.
To achieve their public relations goals, Morningstar has employed a prototypical crisis communications strategy. Here’s how that works. First, deny, deny, deny. And, by their own admission, that’s exactly what Morningstar did. Second, if denials don’t work, feign good faith by acknowledging the minor error of being “too quick to end the discussion about the possibility of bias in some of our research.”
Now that the company in question has acknowledged there might be a problem, they need to find an ostensibly unbiased referee to grant them the coveted hechsher to make the PR problem go away. But nothing can be left to chance, so what’s a CEO to do? Simple, hire the referee yourself. And that’s what Morningstar did by paying a white shoe law firm to deliver a report seemingly addressing the pro-Israel community’s concerns.
Read More: Times of Israel