Karen Doyne

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Karen Doyne is Managing Director for Crisis Communications of Burson-Marsteller's US Corporate and Financial Practice in Washington D.C. where she is responsible for "crisis preparedness, issues management and litigation". She joined BM in June 2003 after working as Senior Vice President/Senior Crisis Counselor for Ketchum Communications where she founded the agency Litigation Communications group. [1]

According to her biographical note on the BM website she "has been on the front lines of major product liability lawsuits, environmental issues, activist protests, employment discrimination claims and myriad other controversies. She has provided crisis management, crisis preparedness/prevention and litigation communications counsel to such clients as Bridgestone/Firestone, the Dow Chemical Company, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, FedEx, InterContinental Hotels, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Visa, and InterTrust Corp". [2]

She is currently listed as a member of the Executive Council of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. According to her biographical note she "regularly speaks at the Center's executive development seminars on risk communication in the U.S. and Europe."

"She has spoken at many other conferences on crisis and litigation communications before groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Georgetown University Law School and the Product Liability Advisory Council, and has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, ABA Journal and PRWeek," her biographical note states.

Prior to joining she had worked as Director of National Press Relations for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) as well as with Fleishman-Hillard in Washington and as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator David Durenberger. "She began her career as an award-winning reporter and newscaster for an all-news/talk radio station in Minneapolis," he biographical note states.

In a 2003 roundtable discussion for an internal Ketchum online publication, Doyne warned that in the US "the trend toward class-action litigation against corporations will surely continue. Attacks on the fast-food industry over the issue of obesity are a high-profile example".

She warned that with the trend to plaintiff lawyers providing background research for investigative news stories, corporations needed "to get ahead of the curve in positioning themselves against litigation".

"Once a story about an allegedly defective product or corporate wrongdoing breaks in the media, the corporate target already is playing catch-up. Yet, very often, corporations know in advance when litigation is brewing against them. Or, at the very least, they know when their product or behavior is vulnerable to legal attack. Companies must be encouraged to raise red flags much earlier and to work with their communications advisors to prepare programs -- in cooperation with their legal counsel -- that will help level the playing field," she said.

The trend by cost cutting media corporations to abolish specialist rounds, she said, increased the risk that a reporter "ignorant" of the legal process would be "more likely to be swayed by unsupported or emotional arguments used against our clients". Doyne singled out the Wall Street Journal for particular attention. "The prime example is The Wall Street Journal, which recently laid off virtually its entire staff of legal correspondents. A lot of expertise and institutional knowledge went with them," she said.

With the Republican party dominance of the US Congress, Doyne thought the most significant issue within he specialist field was likely to be the prospect of tort-law reform."…The best prospects are for proposals targeted toward providing corporate relief in specific lawsuits, such as asbestos, and not positioned as tort reform per se. Broader types of tort or class-action reform -- such as capping punitive damages against companies or limiting contingency fees paid to plaintiff lawyers -- are rabidly opposed by well-funded trial-lawyer organizations, and the public is ambivalent about them at best. In addition, political observers note that President Bush is unlikely to support tort reform publicly before the next election, for fear of alienating centrist voters,' she said. [3]

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