Matt Getz of Boies Schiller Flexner on sanctions, geopolitics and reputation management

Chancery Lane Chats

21-09-2020 • 20 mins

When it comes to state endorsed sanctions, Investigative Lawyer and Partner, Matt Getz, tells Montfort Communications that business reputation is at the mercy of geopolitics, complex law and inaccurate reporting. Matt tackles cases on corruption and white-collar crime and represents multinational corporations in their moment of crisis for his internationally revered firm, Boies Schiller Flexner.

In an educational account of financial crime, Matt unveils the differences between the EU and the US model of sanction endorsements, predictions on what the UK’s post-Brexit freedom may entail and how media consultants are ‘invaluable’ when it comes to protecting businesses from uncorroborated press accounts.

Innocent and guilty; sanctions take all

Whilst a sanction is a form of financial punishment in response to illegal conduct by a state, company or an individual, sanctions also exist for geopolitical gain, as seen in the theatrical US play against Iran resulting in the EU being left in a precarious political position.

Unfortunately, however, even though sanctions aim to financially strangle the sanctioned party, there are often innocent bystanders who are affected.

“It’s long been recognised that sanctions create an inconvenience and some difficulty for innocent parties, you know like innocent parties in the United States or the EU who are dealing with [the sanctioned party]”, says Matt.

That is to say, even by association with a sanctioned party, businesses can become entangled in a web of threats to their public credibility which is driven by the chessboard of international politics.

Unreliable reporting is a business nightmare

On top of that, journalistic inaccuracy often results in irreversible reputational cost.

“A lot of the reporting about that is just wrong, because it does not take into account what the law is about sanctions, or what the purposes of sanctions are,” Matt explains.

And, as a former journalist, Matt does have a lot of sympathy, but whether it is because the law is too complex, reporters are time constrained, or a combination of both, it is business reputation that pays the ultimate price.

Or as Matt puts it, “once a narrative is out there that such and such a person is a baddie, it’s very difficult to dislodge that narrative”.

Overt reliance on press releases

Most shockingly, or worryingly, he reveals that ‘a very large proportion’ of the evidence relied upon by prominent institutional bodies, for example within the EU, are press releases and media publications.

That’s right. The information used to trigger financially and reputationally ruinous sanctions is rarely gathered by an astute investigator, but more commonly ‘the only evidence’ is sought from newspaper articles - or even, as in one case, some [ 1] blogger in Ukraine.

Communications expertise is the prudent defence

Thankfully for Matt’s clients, his investigative legal work and rebuttals are able to save them from the tarnish of the sanction brush. But, in this world of unforgiving and livelihood destroying news, Matt is clear - media strategy and communications expertise is vital to safeguard business reputation when crisis strikes.

Discussed in this podcast episode

  • Introduction to Matt Getz, Lawyer and Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner
  • How it all began with US sanctions on Iran
  • US and EU divergences in enforcement and sanctions law
  • Predictions of UK’s post-Brexit sanctions strategy
  • Unreliable reporting and dangerous press releases
  • The value of communications expertise