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What to Do When Bad Burritos Make Your Executives Turn to Blow

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 11, 2016 3:57 PM

Running a massive corporation is a stressful thing. And sometimes, that stress can push executives to substance abuse. Imagine, for example, you're an executive at an American fast food chain specializing in build-it-yourself burritos, a chain that just can't seem to stop selling E. coli- and norovirus-contaminated wraps. Would anyone really be all that shocked if you turned to blow to get through the hump?

That may be what happened to Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's chief creative and development executive, who was leading the fast food chain's post-health scandal rebranding -- until he was arrested for repeatedly buying cocaine from a New York delivery service.

I'll Take That With Guac and an Eight Ball of Colombian

New York police have accused Crumpacker of buying cocaine on at least seven occasions since January, one of 18 indicted "repeat customers" of a Manhattan cocaine delivery ring. At the time of his arrest, Crumpacker was in the middle of trying to rebuild the Chipotle brand, after the chain had seen its sales plunge 30 percent.

Crumpacker's purchases seem to have aligned with Chipotle's troubles, according to Bloomberg, leading the magazine to speculate that the marketing exec "might have been driven to drugs as the fast food chain's brand was tarnished by health scares."

The first purchase Crumpacker is accused of making, for example, came right before the Centers for Disease Control released the results of their E. coli investigation. Other purchases aligned with Chipotle posting quarterly losses and the company's annual shareholder meeting.

There's no indication whether Crumpacker's alleged drug use was for self-medication, recreation, or just to help him burn the midnight oil.

This Is Your Chain on Drugs

If the accusations against Crumpacker turn out to be true, he wouldn't be the first executive to fail at "just say no." Julie Hamp, formerly the highest-ranking female executive at Toyota, is currently in jail in Japan, having been busted allegedly smuggling illegal oxycodone into the country. And, according to at least one biographer, former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne once kept a bottle full of cocaine on his desk -- a relatively minor habit in comparison to the biggest Wall Street coke scandals.

But corporate drug habits have implications beyond just the scandals.

As studies show, the behavior of corporate leaders, sober or not, can have a major impact on company performance, with impaired leadership resulting in everything from spectacular corporate destruction to the slow loss of high-level talent.

The best way to counteract such corrosive influences may be prevention, Andrew Cave writes for Forbes. A focus on executive character, strong board oversight, and effective succession planning can all help mitigate risks associated with executive drug abuse.

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