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Wealth without guilt

Updated: Feb 18

For the smartest, most accomplished college students, a job at McKinsey & Company can seem like a path to wealth and prestige as well as an opportunity to prove themselves by solving the business world's toughest problems.

As a management consultancy, McKinsey has no peer, and acts like it. When it recruits each year, the firm might attract 200,000 applicants, hiring as little as 1 to 2 percent. A stint at McKinsey, even for a short time, is a lifelong passport to industry and government, thanks to the firm's vast alumni network reaching around

the world. Other top companies dangle promises of riches and the status that comes with them. McKinsey offers that, but also something more-the opportunity for young recruits to use their talents for a higher purpose, to make the world a better place. "Change that matters," McKinsey tells job candidates, a sales pitch of wealth without guilt. "We are a values-driven organization," McKinsey insists.

By portraying itself as a company with a heart, not just a lust for profits, McKinsey appeals to younger, idealistic students concerned about issues like global warming, inequality, and racial justice. It is a potent sales pitch and a strong message to the future wolves of Wall Street that they need not apply. But the firm also offers something just as intoxicating: influence.

For the past century, McKinsey has methodically built its marquee consultancy by selling its philosophy of scientific management to the world's best-known blue-chip companies. At one time or another most Fortune 500 companies have paid McKinsey for advice. So have more than a hundred government agencies around the world. Because the firm won't identify clients or disclose the advice it gives, Americans and, increasingly, people the world over are largely unaware of the profound influence McKinsey exerts over their lives, from the cost and quality of their medical care to the jobs that pay for their children's education. A search of records, including internal company documents, found that the firm has advised virtually every major pharmaceutical company-and their government

regulators-along with health insurers, airlines, universities, museums, weapons makers, private equity firms, casinos, bookmakers, professional sports teams, and media companies, including The New York Times. Many of its consultants were just as comfortable advising Trump officials as they were Obama's.

Operating in more than sixty-five countries, they can whisper in the ears of despots and elected leaders alike. In fifteen of those countries, the firm has advised the military, police and defense, and justice ministries. Its consultants have weighed in on the maintenance and support of "armored personnel carriers; minesweepers, destroyers and submarines." Nations hire McKinsey to advise sovereign wealth funds worth more than $1 trillion. McKinsey's own robust earnings make it possible for the firm to run a private hedge fund for senior partners, with large parts of its roughly $31.5 billion in assets under management concealed behind a tangle of shell companies on an island tax haven in the English Channel.

This tidbit is from the book When McKinsey Comes to Town by Walt Bogdanich, Michael Forsythe

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