Do you have a plan and policy that allows you to address this statement from an employee who receives a poor performance appraisal? The recent active attacker tragedies at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the Mandalay Bay outdoor concert venue in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, all had at least one commonality: Each of those sites was somebody’s workplace. Does your bank have a program to recognize, report, and respond to the risk of workplace violence (WPV), and a strategy that views every employee as a part of the solution to this increased risk? The safety of your employees should be your highest priority. The startling statistics of WPV serve as a catalyst for business leaders to commit to building a program before their risk becomes a reality.
Our Executive is Missing: Kidnap and Ransom Basics for Security Professionals
The third of a three-part series to help protective professionals understand how K&R can be successfully resolved
It may happen when you are least able to prevent it – when your executive or his family are alone and most vulnerable. Learning what to expect in the hours and days after an abduction will help you avoid becoming a bystander at a time when your leadership is most needed. The first article of this series focused on the early hours, activating your plan, confirming a kidnapping, engaging an expert consultant, establishing a negotiation operations center, and selecting a communicator to receive ransom calls. The second article dived deeper into negotiation techniques and financial criteria. In this last article of the series, we address engagement with law enforcement, victim families, and the media.
One of the early critical decisions needed during a kidnapping is the degree your company will engage with law enforcement in the likely foreign jurisdiction of the incident. Law enforcement’s priorities, including the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of the kidnappers, may impede effective negotiations. Police pressure can have a significant and negative impact on the time/money correlation that is present during all kidnappings for ransom. Corporations should strongly consider obtaining the services of a security consultant with a proven track record in ransom negotiations. These consultants already have established liaison with law enforcement and military in the countries where kidnap is most prevalent.
The taking of a U.S. citizen hostage or a ransom demand made against the U.S. Government, regardless of the victim’s citizenship, is a violation of U.S. federal law. The FBI, through their Crisis Negotiation Unit, is recognized as the official negotiation arm of the American government. Under the direction of the U.S. Ambassador, the FBI is the lead agency for Development and implementation of negotiation strategies; Conduct of investigations; and, Collection of evidence. The FBI will coordinate the government’s response to kidnap but will not take over decision making. Key decisions, such as whether to pay a ransom, always remain the responsibility of the victim family and/or company. The FBI will not provide the funds nor make the delivery of any ransom payment outside the United States. Corporations and families still must make these tough calls while managing the incident.
Know the Law
Some countries require mandatory notification to authorities that a kidnap occurred. Some countries mandate that you obtain their permission to negotiate with captors. Learning in advance the legal requirements in the countries where you have a presence could save precious time. A robust exchange of information with country authorities can result in permission to make a ransom payment when there is no other recourse for the victim’s safe release. The strong liaison can also help authorities realize that a kidnap negotiation is an investigative tool that provides intelligence and creates potentially exploitable options for law enforcement. Accommodation can be reached wherein authorities agree to wait until the victim is safely recovered before pursuing the abductors. In turn, a victim company may promise to provide all available evidence and make the victim available for debriefing.
In most cases, cooperation with authorities should be the preferred option of a victim company. Cooperation is a two-way street that can build trust. A strong liaison with authorities can increase the company’s ability to influence law enforcement actions. This is most critical when there is a need to restrain officials from attempting high-risk rescues. Continuous contact with high-level trusted officials can reap both short and long-term benefits.
A company should prepare to expend a considerable amount of time and resources supporting, advising and protecting the victim family. First impressions are critical, and a company should give serious consideration as to which executive protection level official will make the initial in-person notification, and who will be assigned as the full-time family liaison for the duration of the incident. The victim’s family will feel isolated, perceive that information is being filtered, and that the company is not doing enough to obtain their loved one’s release. These sentiments are quite common and understandable. It is essential for the company to form a united front with the family and to provide them with realistic assessments and genuine assurances that they are equal players at the table.
As soon as possible there are two areas to address with the family. The first area is how to handle contact with the captors. The second topic involves the best approach to media inquiries. Contact from the captors with the family is very common and should be expected. Captors realize the emotional impact they can have when they manipulate victim family against victim company. They know the family can pressure the company to quickly acquiesce to the captor’s demands. A company that provides the victim family with concrete guidelines can minimize the likelihood of orchestrated manipulation. Additionally, the family’s confidence in the company’s knowledge and competence increases when they can anticipate the adversaries’ strategy.
The family will also need media guidance and someone to act as a buffer during the kidnapping. Educate the family on the potential damage to negotiations that can be done by a spontaneous statement to the media. It might even be necessary to relocate the family for the duration of the incident to isolate them from a media onslaught.
A Crisis Communication Plan should be an annex of your Crisis Management Plan. The media will ask three basic questions: What happened? How did it happen? What are you going to do about it? It is in your company’s best interest to respond to media inquiries. Failure to respond or delaying response makes the company look irresponsible, unconcerned or incompetent. Again, an experienced negotiation consultant can assist you with the best responses to media inquiries.
Your company’s communication department should craft holding statements for various crises in advance. Innocuous holding statements can help a company buy time to gather critical information. Financial details, ransom policies, insurance coverage, and negotiation status should never be discussed with the media. It is also a good policy to not publicly criticize any government’s response efforts.
Always provide information to the victim family before providing it to the media. Also, focus on internal messaging for the “corporate family” of colleagues and co-workers who will not appreciate learning information through the media. There should be only one authorized spokesperson and statements should be cleared with key partners before release. Don’t lie to the media. Take control and portray a posture of calm and confidence. Proactively anticipate media events and stories rather than merely reacting to them.
Companies responding to an international kidnapping will face the challenge of dealing with multiple governments, interacting with law enforcement agencies, victim families and the media. The safety of your victim employee may depend on your ability to successfully navigate the internal and external complexities of the crisis. Will you be ready?
The business traveler to Mexico is ill-served by a national or regional level risk assessment approach. Rather, Mexico Travel Risk Services must be viewed through the lens of locality. For example, risk levels in Cancun are not nearly the same as Monterrey. Corporate security organizations wedded to general travel advice for Mexican regions will not only find themselves saying “No” to business opportunities in safer towns but saying “Yes” to potentially life-threatening visits to villages that should be off-limits. More than ever before, business travelers unaware of the risk distinctions from district to district, and neighborhood to neighborhood are either placing themselves at unprecedented risk or missing out on closing deals in places where the risk is manageable.
Last year, the U.S. State Department issued strict “do not travel” advisories for five Mexican states because of violent crime and gang activity. While the State Department has long recommended travelers exercise “increased caution” in Mexico in general because of widespread homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery, the new warning elevates the five states to level 4, the highest level of potential danger. This advisory puts the states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, and Guerrero on the same level as battle-weary countries like Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. Yet, many businesses have chosen to interpret the “do not travel” advisories for those five states as precluding travel to even the surrounding regions adjacent to those states. In doing so, those businesses are foregoing opportunities by not seeking out the finer details of Mexican travel.
The assassination of Denis N. Voronenkov in March 2017, a former Russian lawmaker who was killed in Kiev in a widely publicized killing, identifies what happens when does not have time to react. Denis Voronenkov, who’d been a Communist member of Russia’s lower legislative house before he left, was fatally shot outside a hotel in broad daylight.
Preparing for the worse is part of every security professional’s repertoire especially when it comes to planning for failure. This three-part series is designed to enhance understanding of how kidnap and ransom negotiations work and your role in the event the unthinkable happens. Cyber Security leaders with a significant global high-risk footprint know that a kidnapping may not be a question of “if” but a question of “when”.
It may happen when you are least able to prevent it – when your executive or his family are alone and most vulnerable. Learning what to expect in the hours and days after an abduction will help you avoid becoming a bystander at a time when your leadership is most needed. Understanding how professional negotiators work increases the odds that you will seek their expertise, augment their mission, and successfully resolve an abduction. The first article of this series focused on the early hours, activating your crisis plan, confirming a kidnapping has occurred, engaging an expert consultant, establishing a negotiation operations center, and carefully selecting a communicator to receive ransom calls. This second article in the series dives deeper into ransom negotiation techniques and financial criteria.
One reason to seek the expertise of a K&R professional is domain knowledge regarding ransom. We are all familiar with the real estate mantra, “location, location, location”. Similarly, ransom demands are contingent upon the adversaries’ expectations, or the “going rate”, and a major determinant of that rate is location. A K&R expert will help you understand the most recent and differing ransom structures for places like Nigeria, Colombia and Mexico Executive Protection Services. Also obtain and assess intelligence regarding the captor’s previous kidnap track record, including the credibility of their threats and their propensity for violence, and what ransom amounts have been paid by western victims’ families and companies in that location. Such intelligence is instrumental in estimating the final amount you expect to pay the captors to secure the release of the hostage. Another key factor in deriving this payment figure is of course the amount of funds available and/or agreeable to be paid. Statistics show that a large majority of captors agree to approximately 10 percent of their initial ransom demand.
Your K&R consultant will insist the captors provide a bonafide proof of life before making the initial counteroffer. This serves to strengthen the continuous message that the payment of ransom is directly tied to the welfare of the victim. As a rule, the initial counteroffer to the captor’s first ransom demand should be about two-thirds of the amount you expect to pay. As in a chess game, a financial strategy can be employed that allows room to reach the final amount in several moves. Another general guideline is to not make the initial counteroffer until the kidnappers lower their initial demand. Then, increases should be made in decreasing increments. Also, offering odd amounts of money is a technique used to indicate your difficulty in raising funds. This tactic can be most effective when dealing with the kidnap of a family member.
As a protective professional you should have a crisismanagement plan that includes a K&R response protocol. Part of that protocol should be an understanding that if a kidnap occurs, a K&R consultant will want to select a communicator to engage with the captor.
The concept of prolonging a victim’s captivity by hastily agreeing to the captor’s ransom demand seems counterintuitive. It can be difficult to explain and convince a victim’s family that it is in the victim’s best interests to extend the negotiation process.
As seen repeatedly in the celebrity and corporate worlds, unprofessional personal security can inflict long-lasting reputational harm, or worse. There are multiple untold horror stories of VIP security gone wrong including personal security operators and drivers getting lost on the way to meetings, driving through high-risk environments, and having their VIPs attacked. There are examples of personal special event security negligently discharging firearms, crashing vehicles, and losing track of their protected. Even less extreme failures have a serious negative impact on business effectiveness, brand reputation, and the personal image of the senior executive. Far too often those most in need of high-level security make the mistake of saving on cost in favor of ‘large, imposing bodyguards’ yet rarely consider if these persons have the training and ability to react.
This article will address the advancement and detailing of security or travel well being dangers and how they are imparted. In particular, the gathering of information, influenced group of onlookers socioeconomic, amassed markers, qualifiers and the genuine dangers uncovered.
The business traveler to Mexico is ill-served by a national or regional level risk assessment approach. Rather, Mexico Travel Risk Services must be viewed through the lens of locality. For example, risk levels in Cancun are not nearly the same as Monterrey. Corporate security organizations wedded to general travel advice for Mexican regions will not only find themselves saying “No” to business opportunities in safer towns but saying “Yes” to potentially life-threatening visits to villages that should be off-limits.
Your bank’s employees represent your best chance to mitigate workplace violence (WPV) risk. The challenge is to equip those employees with the knowledge and means to safeguard your business. That stewardship mindset, which views employees as custodians of your bank’s reputation and safety, requires equipping staff to understand the “Three R’s” of Workplace Violence Programs: Recognizing the warning signs and indicators; Reporting concerns; and Responding appropriately when the risk becomes a reality.
In an earlier installment of this two-part workplace violence prevention series, we discussed the basic building blocks of a workplace violence policy and program including the four types of WPV, the data, and definitions behind WPV, crafting a corporate policy, and engaging employees in reporting and response. In this article, we explore in depth the essential elements of an employee-driven stewardship model that protect your bank and its people from harm—i.e. the “Three R’s.”