Monday, February 04, 2008

Meijer Scrutinized for Tax Breaks, Criminal Probe

A source alerted me to the Traverse City Record Eagle's weekend coverage of Meijer.

One article is about the retailer receiving special state tax breaks.

A second article is about the status of the investigation regarding the Acme Township recall and whether that is best reviewed by Meijer's own attorney, Lansing politicians, or a state police detective based in Grand Traverse County.

On the former, I would say that having a political action committee (PAC) and making your case to politicians by lobbying is standard and acceptable PR practice. What is not, or should not, be standard is getting special favors or being perceived as a "special interest," as some in the article allege.

The second article is related in that it implies Meijer has deep pockets and can influence Lansing on the Acme recall investigation.

In both articles the evidence seems to be that Meijer addresses things from a legal, rather than public relations, perspective. They refer inquiries to their attorney. Their spokesperson (who I am told is also an attorney) declines comment in favor of stiff statements. They present a public posture that seems eager to get pesky journalists off their back, rather than having honest dialogue with the communities they purport to serve.

Perhaps it was a wise PR counsel who coined the expression, "first, kill all the lawyers." Corporate PR execs need to remember that anything you say--or don't say--can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion. You have the right to remain silent, but you also have an obligation (and hopefully a sound strategy) to justify your behavior to your key publics.

Meanwhile, the buzz among the West Michigan legal community is about the culpability of the law firm in the Acme Township recall incident. The company and a PR firm are on the hook; little has been said about the law firm's role. Apparently, Meijer's attorney hopes to wrap up his investigation of the matter early this month, with documents then forwarded to the state police detective. Keep watching.

1 comment:

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