Time was, corporate misdeeds could be pretty effectively covered up. Sure, some scandals would leak out and make headlines, but information could often be contained, insiders constrained, or ignorance feigned.
It’s getting very difficult to keep the lid on wrongdoing, and I, for one, think that is a good thing. What has changed? In a word, electronic communications.
Damning information is leaking out all over nowadays. In our industry, there has been a significant uptick in corporate e-mails, Powerpoint slides, documents, and other documentation of wrongdoing flowing out and becoming public. Much of this has occurred through the emerging pharma blogger community (most notably, Peter Rost over at Question Authority; but now others, such as Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, are being given such info).
Of course, a lot of “after the fact” electronic information gets exposed during trials, as archived e-mails and other documents are unearthed. But now, we no longer have to wait for the discovery process of trials. We’ve seen information leaked, exposure occur, investigations begun, and people fired within weeks – because blogs suddenly make it possible to publicize information almost immediately. Including pictures and videos (far more ubiquitous nowadays).
This has its dangers, of course. Most bloggers are not trained journalists. Sometimes due diligence has not occurred. Rushes to judgment can occur. But when clear electronic evidence is brought to light…well, a refusal to take action suddenly becomes less of an option.
This forced transparency can have a salutary effect. Ethical behavior may be forced on those who otherwise would blur the lines. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But if you’re playing games, the likelihood now is far greater that you’ll pay the price. Very publicly.