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Navigating Risk

“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.”
– George C. Scott as Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove

I have always been amazed at the confident abandon with which we use words like “due diligence,” as if we can accurately and fully read and understand every risk — past, present and future. The more information we have, the more surprised we seem to become by endless eventualities.

Who would have thought that the very country that unleased its destructive impulses on America and the West with the Gerasimov Doctrine—radically accelerating the demolition of our faith and confidence in government, courts, the media and each other—would also be the same country unifying us throughout Europe and America by invading Ukraine?

Up until very recently, we seemed ready to go to civil war over masks and pronouns, but in just a few short weeks appear to have realized that a nuclear and chemically equipped autocrat engaged in the greatest threat to democracy since World War II deserves our utmost attention.

What level of cyber warfare should we anticipate from an antagonistic Russia? What preparations should we be making in our offices and homes? High profile and High Net Worth Individuals require special prophylaxis, but it also turns out that small and medium sized businesses are considered “low hanging fruit” by Russian cyber warriors. Now is not the time to rest on our cyber laurels.

How do companies navigate their brand and marketing position at a time when a new cold and hot war has started while the struggle at home teeters between an “off with their heads” French revolutionary narcissism (all judgment, no listening) and the late World War II Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s belief that “politics stops at the water’s edge?” What will tomorrow bring?

To help us anticipate, navigate and prepare for the lightning fast and radically altering foreign and domestic risks, we recorded five shows this past week on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal that is carried globally by multiple media partners such as CommPRO and Air Asia, to help guide us through this period of danger and uncertainty.

As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.” The future is seldom as we predicted or anticipated, and unintended consequences seem to always catch us by surprise.

A Paper Cyber Tiger? The Russian Cyberwar That Isn’t…Yet

Brandon Valeriano, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Marine Corps University and formerly a Senior Advisor to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission joined me to discuss his latest articles, including A Russian Cyber War in Ukraine Was a Fantasy and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t rely on cyberwarfare. Here’s why. He outlined the clues earlier Russian cyber operations can provide, why Russia’s current cyber efforts have had little impact, their ineffectiveness on the battlefield but their effectiveness at disrupting peaceful societies, how hacktivists are engaging and why cyberwarfare is not yet decisive.

Cyber Risks In the Age of Geopolitical Disruption

Dr. Chris Pierson, Founder and CEO of BlackCloak, a pioneer of personal digital protection, spoke on air about the increased risks to CEOs, C-suite executives, High Net Worth Individuals and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals during this geopolitically tense time. He outlined particularly threatened industries, including energy, finance, aerospace and defense, and also highlighted how personal Gmail accounts are now a target, especially for those working with the federal government in some capacity.

There Are No Borders In The Digital Wars

Peter Cavrell, Vice President of Business Development & Marketing and Chuck Mackey, Director of Cybersecurity Consulting at Fortress Security Risk Management, discussed existing cyber threats and how they will only grow with the likely forthcoming Russian cyber warfare. Expect more insider threats, supply chain risks and attacks on the small and middle market firms. They also discussed how to insulate and protect your assets, including 6-Steps to Cyber Safety and an accompanying infographic.

Navigating the Risk of Corporate Political Spending

Bruce Freed, President and Co-Founder of the Center for Political Accountability, spoke on how corporations can navigate the increasingly transparent and highly challenging world of political donations. Already demanding prior to the January 6th insurrection, it is now a minefield, with PAC, 527 and association donations and alliances drawing heavy critical fire from the media, social critics, employees and even shareholders. In this age of divisiveness and heightened public criticism when the old tropes about ‘equal donations’ and ‘not agreeing with everything a politician or group stands for’ increasingly on deaf ears, corporations must interrogate the increased risks and reduced rewards of their political donations. The Center provides multiple resources for companies, including a model code of conduct, Navigating the Risks of Corporate Political Spending.

Erin Essenmacher, a long time board member, award winning film maker, strategist and journalist captured a number of my thoughts on the subject in a recent article in Directors and Boards magazine entitled How to Respond to Social and Political Issues.

The SEC and Securities-Related Regulatory and Enforcement Matters

Kristin Snyder, former Deputy Director of the Division of Examinations at the SEC and current member of the White Collar & Regulatory Defense Group at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in the firm’s San Francisco office, joined me for a show. She discussed securities-related regulatory and enforcement matters, particularly for private investment firms and other asset managers; ESG enforcement for investment managers and private funds; a look forward at 2022 SEC trends; and more.

For those of us who wondered what it was like for our grandparents and great grandparents in the leadup to World War II, we can wonder no more. We now have a fractional sense of the risks and tumult, the courage and the entire populations reduced to proxies by an autocrat trying to establish superpower leverage. Already, it has put into perspective what it is really like when someone “makes us feel uncomfortable.”

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”
– Winston Churchill speaking before the House of Commons, June 4, 1940, following the evacuation of British and French armies from Dunkirk.

Enjoy the shows.

Richard Levick

Listen to A Paper Cyber Tiger? The Russian Cyberware That Isn’t… Yet

Listen to Cyber Risks in the Age of Geopolitical Disruption

Listen to There Are No Borders in the Digital Wars

Listen to Navigating the Risk of Corporate Political Spending

Listen to The SEC and Securities-Related Regulatory and Enforcement Matters

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