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Consultants and the Crisis of Capitalism

McKinsey & Company’s many high-profile scandals are only the tip of the iceberg. The growing reliance on big consultancies with extractive business models is stunting state capacity and undermining democratic accountability at a time when we need governments to help transform our economies in the public interest.

LONDON – In recent years, McKinsey & Company has become a household name – but for all the wrong reasons. One of the “Big Three” consulting firms, its work for major corporations and governments has increasingly become a source of scandal and intrigue around the world.

In the United States, for example, McKinsey agreed to pay nearly $600 million for its role in the deadly opioid epidemic, following allegations that it had advised Purdue Pharma on how to “turbocharge” sales of OxyContin. In Australia, the firm’s work on the previous government’s national net-zero strategy was criticized as a flagrant attempt to protect the country’s fossil-fuel industry. And in Puerto Rico, a New York Times investigation found that McKinsey’s investment subsidiary, MIO Partners, was positioned to profit from the very same debt that its consultants were helping to restructure.

This list could go on and on. But as we show in our new book, The Big Con: How the Consulting Industry Weakens Our Businesses, Infantilizes Our Governments, and Warps our Economies, such scandals are only the tip of the iceberg. While there are a few bad apples in every company, the real problem lies with the consulting industry’s underlying business model.