The Renault Spy Scandal: When a Speedy, Decisive Action Hurts

Speed is a double-edged sword in crisis communication.  Organizations are told to respond fast.  The sooner the better it would seem.  But speed can produce errors and be based on incomplete and misleading information.  A quick reaction that is decisive projects the image of managers that are control of the bad situation.  If we go back to the 2011 Renault Spy Scandal we find a case were quick a decisive action hurt the company.


Dominique Gevrey, a security chief at Renault and former intelligence officer, brought forward evidence that three executives had sold secrets about Renault’s electric car strategy to unknow foreign agents.  In a quick and decisive move, Renault fired the three executives immediately though each proclaimed their innocence.  Of course many guilt claim tom be innocent but that was not the case here.  Two months later, Dominique Gevrey was arrested as he tried to board a plane leaving the country for Guinea in west Africa.  Other investigations found there were no secrets sold.  The story was a fabrication.  Gevrey was accused of fraud and was believed to have keep the over $200,000 given to a secret source who provided the information.  Renault apologized to fired employees and offered them their jobs back. Of course the apology was not embraced as the executives were suing over wrongful dismissal.


The scandal had gone from a little bad to very bad with Renault being called paranoid and dysfunctional in the media and calls going out to fire its current leadership that allowed such a situation to unfold. 


Questions to Consider


1.  How can managers balance the need for speed and action against correct decisions when allegations of wrongdoing are launched against other managers?


2.  Why would Renault act so quickly and not just wait for an investigation?  What are the pressures to act?


3.  What unique features of this case limit the conclusions we can draw from it?


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