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It's, a subject no one wants to talk about. Crimes committed against executives in North America are unreported; no one keeps statistics, not even the FBI. As a rule, when companies are queried about their executive protection policies, mum's the word--the boardroom doors are firmly shut.
"There's no research base in this field, no data on types or frequency of threats," says William Cunningham, CPP, coauthor of The Hallcrest Report II: Private Security Trends (1970) to 2000), a research study underwritten by the US Department of Justice profiling the growth and changed in the private security industry. "Those [executive protection policies] are carefully guarded crown jewels in a company because [the concept] is negative and embarrassing. It's not the kind of thing companies like to promote."
Yet no one can deny a problem exists. Economically, executives are logical targets. Problems that in the past primarily plagued political figures--such as kidnap and ransom, extortion, assault, and assassination--have shifted to include the corporate sector. Executives are also considered fair targets of blackmail and other harassment ploys. "Corporate executives are always targets and are always going to be targets because they are people worthy of being targets," explains Terry Van Gilder, executive vice president of Chubb and Son Inc., an insurance firm in Warren, NJ. (Livingstone and Katzen, 2005)
Van Gilder, who oversees extortion and kidnap/ransom coverages, notes, "If your objective is to get money quickly and easily or to make some kind of political statement, people of some prominence are going to enter into your mind as an opportunity. It doesn't necessarily have to be an international statement--there are local and domestic agendas, too."
In many instances more can be achieved by targeting a CEO than a government official. While attacks on both types of individuals will gain attention, the corporate community has more accessible purse strings
"Let's face it, if you kidnap a diplomat, the government is not going to pay your ransom," says Alan Bell, manager of Intercon Security Limited's corporate resource group in Toronto, Chicago, and Vancouver. "But if you kidnap an important man or woman in a corporation, such as a CEO or president, it's going to pay to get him or her back. Plus, most senior executives are covered by kidnap and ransom insurance in their companies." (Livingstone and Katzen, 2005)
Threats are not isolated to the executive. Families are also at risk. Last December, just days before Christmas, the 30-year-old daughter of millionaire Jim Pattison was kidnapped from her Vancouver home. Pattison, the sole shareholder of Jim Pattison Group, conglomerate owning auto dealerships, a supermarket chain, and radio stations, reportedly paid $200,000 ransom in exchange for his daughter's safe return.
Interestingly, what stands out most about this incident is not that it happened, nor that a crime was directed toward an executive's child. The real rarity is that it appeared in the news media.
"I've dealt with all aspects of executives being threatened, by other businesspeople, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends...it's something that happens on a day-to-day basis," says Bell, who draws on his military expertise, which includes 10 years in Britain's Royal Marine Commandos and 12 years in the Special Air Service, to advise clients on security and crisis management issues. ...