Crisis Response to a Product Extortion
A global food manufacturer headquartered in Europe received an extortion letter containing a white powder containing a deadly poison from a plant. The blackmailer threatened to contaminate the company's products with the poison. He demanded payment of a ransom in the form of bitcoins and set a deadline of several weeks.
This extortion letter was part of a series of product extortions directed against more than 30 companies throughout Europe and originated from the same perpetrator. Very quickly, the media became aware of the series of extortions.
After informing the police, the targeted company called in a crisis response consultant from SmartRiskSolutions to support its crisis management.
Approach by SmartRiskSolutions
The consultant instructed the crisis management team on how product extortions work in general and developed appropriate counter-measures for the perpetrator's possible next steps.
A key point of the assistance provided by SmartRiskSolutions was to assess the threatening letter to determine the capabilities, intentions and seriousness of the perpetrator. SmartRiskSolutions brought in a pharmacist to brief the crisis management team about the toxicity of the poison, the critical quantity and the limitations of its use by the perpetrator in the company's products.
SmartRiskSolutions concluded and recommended not to respond to the extortionist, but to review existing supply chain security measures and update recall plans just in case.
The company was prepared in case the perpetrator contacted them again and internal and external crisis communication was conducted as well.
By not engaging in communication with the extortionist, the company achieved its goal of having the perpetrator disappear in frustration.
The specific crisis communication, which included several interviews, led to the media losing interest in the case.
Nevertheless, the food manufacturer had to deal with the product extortion case over the period of almost three months.