Who is who, and what is what. And is wisdom really wisdom, or is it a myth?
Imagine that you are in charge of a company in the Netherlands, and then something happens that you hoped would never happen. Liability claims from customers, product safety issues, a production standstill because of bad raw materials or components, damage to your reputation and blistering criticism from shareholders and consumers at the same time.
A wizard or a good fairy would come in handy, but this is the real world. You can hire them all: lawyers, insurance experts, communication guru's and still you might be wondering: "am I doing the right thing, or am I just securing the jobs for all these outside professionals?"
Would it be an idea to just catch your breath over a cup of coffee and chat with a sparring partner with lots of experience? You know, we cannot change reality for you, but we can be exactly that sparring partner. That's what we do. We have that cup of coffee together, two if you like, with a syrup waffle, and we share with you our arsenal of 40 years of experience in a myriad of matters, related to product liability, claims, recall, third party risks and (although we don't sell it) even insurance.
Can you recall when you did a recall drill?
Opening a company in a foreign country always means that you have to familiarize yourself with the local market, customs and business environment, including officials and bureaucracy. Fortunately red tape has gotten much less in the last few decades, but if you make or import and sell products to the public, sooner or later the product safety authorities (NVWA in the Netherlands) will cross your path.
They are usually fair and easy to deal with if you yourself are open and act responsibly, but they don't accept B.S. or denial behavior. If you have to recall a product (or even if you think you may...), you'd better be well prepared and you need to be able to talk "their language", and then we do not mean Dutch.
We helped and coached many companies that were confronted with product safety issues, took part in their crisis teams, and even joined in the meetings with the NVWA. We assisted in defining the strategies to do a successful recall, and our clients and us repeatedly received compliments from the NVWA inspectors about the success rates. Even better, we also helped companies writing their recall crisis plans, and in some cases we scripted the simulation practice of these plans. When was the last time that your company did a product recall crisis simulation?
"Polder Model" in a liability claim against a Dutch subsidiary of foreign company
A foreign company had just opened a subsidiary in the Netherlands. Unfortunately something went wrong in one of their first projects, and a customer claimed damages, in particular related to their own investments in that same project. This kind of damages are usually not covered by insurance. Management of the foreign company were concerned that they would have to deal with a court case in the Netherlands, without having local in-house expertise.
In our discussions with the Dutch subsidiary manager, and a video call with head office, we were able to explain that it is not very common in the Netherlands to immediately involve lawyers. Business and even politics in this country have a tradition to seek consensus rather than confrontation, an approach sometimes called the Rhineland Approach or Polder Model.
Together we developed a strategy that was not really focused on the damages claim but more on improving and expanding a relationship with the opposite party. We were our customer's "confidante" in the background. It worked very well, and the expanded co-operation was profitable for both parties. So much, that the damages claim was easily resolved.
Acquiring a Dutch company? Archeology may reveal skeletons in the closet, but also $$$ in the archive
A company acquisition usually involved so-called "due diligence" research, into the assets and obligations of the targeted acquisition. Pending litigation and outstanding complaints and claims are part of this, and may be tricky in the negative or positive sense. Especially so-called long tail claims that are often still looming in the dark. Think of environmental claims or occupational diseases with extremely long latency time, such as mesothelioma, a deadly and painful asbestos cancer.
We were subcontracted by an accountant firm that worked on a merger, and identified a high probability that still some asbestos related claims might come to the surface after the take over. Because we are very familiar with the special arrangement between public and private sectors in the Netherlands on this subject, we could contribute valuable input for making an estimate of this potential, still hidden risk in financial terms.
Unfortunately such risks would not be covered by the current insurance policy. This is why we suggested our Insurance Archeology service; possibly we could identify some policies from the past, that would still give coverage, even for "new claims" with a cause in the past, that might pop up. The effort was a success: we identified liability policies from the early 1990's and older, which would still cover for such claims, even if they were made after the end date of the policies. Not only did we find more than half a million Euro's in potential coverage; we also found the insurer to whom such a claim could be sent to for handling, so that our client will not have to struggle with such claims, if they come.
Please visit this page frequently. New case examples will be added regularly.
Or better still: just contact us if you want to know more. We do like to talk about the kind of work that we do...
All the current and future example cases in this page have been anonymized and descriptions may slightly differ from the actual cases, to protect the interests of our clients. Jacques Timmers has been the consultant in all the actual cases which were the inspiration for these examples, both after he joined Black Stallion B.V. in 2018, and before, in his previous position (2006-2018) with a large global risk consulting firm..
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