“Operational” crises that impair a company’s ability to function, such as environmental disasters, cause the greatest long-term effect on stock prices, according to research by law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
In the first 48 hours after they break, such crises have little effect on shares, but prices fall on average almost 15 percent over six months, according to the Freshfields Crisis Management Study 2013. A quarter of companies were still down on pre-crisis levels after a year, the report says.
This 48-hour window is often company executives’ “last chance to take quick and decisive action” before financial news bulletins take center stage, according to Freshfields.
The speed at which a company’s executives are dragged to face public and market opinion largely depends on the type of crisis they are tackling, the report says. Executives at firms affected by a behavior-based crisis, such as as money laundering or anti-competitive conduct, should typically prepare for an up-front hit on their share prices, whereas those dealing with an operational matter are probably going to be in repair mode for the long term, the report says.
A review of 899 directors serving on the boards of companies which suffered a share price hit revealed a departure rate among senior executives of almost 10 percent within a year of the crisis breaking. This increased to 15 percent among executives unable to steer their company’s share price back to pre-crisis levels within six months, but dropped to just 4 percent among those who did manage the turnaround. It contrasts with the market’s average boardroom attrition rate of just 8 percent, recorded among crisis-hit companies’ direct competitors, listed on the same exchange but unaffected by a crisis of their own.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which an explosion at a BP-owned ultra-deep water oil drilling platform caused an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico over a three-month period in 2010, saw that company’s share value drop 54 percent from the start of the year until the end of June. The company’s overall value dropped by $105 billion from April 25 to June 25, 2010, according to news reports.
Earlier this year, the EPA temporarily suspended BP and its named affiliated companies from new contracts with the federal government.