Vilification Stories: The Fall of Dow Corning Tonja E. Olive
The most important battle to be fought is not in a court of law. It's in the court of public opinion. That's the key lesson gleaned from James Burke's deft handling of Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol crisis. Accept responsibility. Forget short-term profitability. As Gerald Meyers, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's business school, puts it: "If you win public opinion, the company can move forward and get through it. If you lose there, it won't make any difference what happens in a court of Jaw." (Byrne, 1992, p. 33)
As the media heightened awareness of the controversy surrounding silicone breast implants, manufacturers struggled to maintain public confidence and government approval for their products. Dow Corning Wright, a joint venture between Dow Chemical and Corning, was the largest manufacturer of silicone breast implants and had been a pioneer in their design since the 1960s. An estimated 450,000 to 1,300,000 American women have Dow Corning implants (Reibstein, Washington, Tsaintor, & Hager, 1992, p. 38; Walker, 1992, p. 1A). Controlling 30% of the implant market, Dow Corning led McGhan Medical Corporation, Bioplasty Inc., Mentor Corporation, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Throughout the decades of its market leadership Dow Corning had affirmed the safety and efficacy of its implants.