Aetna Inc.: Managing Inherent Enterprise Risks Through Stakeholder Management

20 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2010  

James Rubin

University of Virginia – Darden Graduate School of Business Administration

Barbara Carmichael

APCO Worldwide


Inherent risks or negatives are a critical element of “enterprise risk management” that must be mitigated or dramatically managed through constructive actions to sustain growth and manage reputation. Set in 2003 as Aetna prepares to settle a landmark class-action lawsuit, this case explores how communications and PR executives work with management to devise an announcement that fully engages the company's key stakeholders in this dramatic break with its industry's position. This case is well suited to courses and modules on crisis management, risk management, corporate communication, and strategic communication. Though written for a business school audience, it would be equally useful for courses in communication or public relations programs. The case asks students to choose from a number of possible communication strategies. It also asks students to relate communication strategy to the company's changing business model, which is demonstrated in detail in the case. The authors interviewed not only the top communication managers at Aetna, but also the CEO, CMO, and corporate counsel and some prominent legal experts. It is ever more relevant as the world of crisis issues management, crisis management, and corporate litigation becomes ever more difficult to navigate.



November 27, 2009

Aetna inc.: MANAging inherent enterprise risksthrough stakeholder management


In the spring of 2003, Roger Bolton, Aetna Inc.'s senior vice president of communications, and David Carter, Aetna's vice president of corporate public relations, compared notes as they walked back to their offices following discussions with Aetna's attorneys, with whom they had been working for the past four years. Together, they had been managing the continuous communications challenges surrounding class action litigation that physicians had brought against managed care companies and had watched Aetna's position erode, both in its financial results and its reputation among key stakeholders—patients, physicians, corporate benefits customers, employees, and investors.

It had not been a fun ride.

. . .

Keywords: public relations crisis communications strategy enterprise risk lawsuit

Suggested Citation

Rubin, James and Carmichael, Barbara, Aetna Inc.: Managing Inherent Enterprise Risks Through Stakeholder Management. Darden Case No. UVA-BC-0218. Available at SSRN:

James Rubin (Contact Author)

University of Virginia – Darden Graduate School of Business Administration ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4830 (Phone)


Barbara Carmichael

APCO Worldwide ( email )

700 12th Street, N.W.
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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