By Alan Murray and Claire Zillman
March 8, 2019

Good morning.

McKinsey & Co. has long been considered the world’s most prestigious, pricey, and private consulting firm, fighting mightily to keep its name and those of its clients out of the news. But in the last year, that fight has failed, and the firm has found itself at the center of a number of controversies, in South Africa, Saudi Arabia, China and even here in the U.S. The New York Times, in particular, has latched onto McKinsey like a bulldog, apparently seeing a potential Pulitzer Prize in the making.

Yesterday, McKinsey’s top partner, Kevin Sneader, sent a letter to his colleagues acknowledging that “mistakes” were made—without being too specific—and promising to learn lessons from those mistakes. He also said the firm was reviewing its criteria for accepting clients, to better screen for the effects of its work on society.

The big change came in acknowledging that McKinsey can no longer avoid the spotlight, however. “We have a long-standing commitment to client confidentiality, shunning publicity and keeping a low public profile,” wrote Sneader. “The problem is that in a world of social media, distrust for business and heightened transparency, our historic approach looks evasive and secretive. That is why likely actions include stepped up efforts to share who we are and what we do.”

That’s a refrain I hear repeatedly these days from CEOs. The old approach—keeping your head down, and tending to your business—just doesn’t work anymore, for a bunch of reasons that I’ve written about previously. More than ever, business leaders need to step up and show their actions are benefitting society…and admit when they aren’t. Transparency isn’t just a good idea; it has become a business imperative.

Sneader talked with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, providing more insight into what went wrong, and expanding on what he is doing to make it right. You can read the full interview this morning here.

By the way, as Adam discloses, McKinsey is a Fortune partner, sponsoring a number of our events. More news below.

Alan Murray


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