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The aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., sent corporate America scurrying to review its emergency response and crisis management plans. Although no company can completely protect itself from inconceivable catastrophes, many businesses affected by the World Trade Center attack responded quickly and were up and running with surprisingly few hiccups. Corporate Counsel talked with a general counsel whose business had offices at the World Trade Center site: Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.’s Donald Kempf, Jr. The financial services giant, which reported six people missing (and presumed dead at press time) out of roughly 3,700 employees, was ready to resume full operations by Sept. 13. Kempf, a 64-year-old ex-marine and former longtime Kirkland & Ellis partner, shared his thoughts on disaster preparation and the human dimension of the disaster. On morale at Morgan Stanley after the attack: We mirror the rest of the population. Some of the people who have had a lot of success over the last decade or more — their families are saying, “We love you, we don’t need the money, let’s just retire.” On leadership: I view myself as hopefully being able to provide some senior judgment and stability. You never know if you do or don’t. You like to think that during difficult times it brings out the best in you, just like it brings out the best in everyone. On disaster preparation: The aftermath of the ’93 World Trade Center bombing accomplished two things.One, it sensitized our people to the seriousness of terrorism. When the first plane hit One World Trade [Center] (we were in Two World Trade) our leadership immediately moved to get people out of the building. Number two, we probably came out of it the best-prepared [of Wall Street firms in the Trade Center] to continue, because we had a number of backup facilities standing by to move into.And that is an outgrowth of the ’93 episode. [Back then] we said, “We better have what are called “BIFs” — business interruption facilities — so if something happens to one facility we can move into another. So, over in New Jersey we have a huge amount of empty space standing by in case of any emergency. On the importance of keeping busy: I’m not sure we’ll ever be back to normal as “normal” used to be. But there’s a certain therapy in keeping busy. We’re trying to encourage people not to stay home and brood. Some of them need to. Everybody’s different. On whether anything positive came out of the experience: You always talk about the integration of two cultures when there’s a merger. Ours [between Dean Witter, Discover & Co., and Morgan Stanley Group, Inc.] was four years ago now, but I tell you, to the extent that there’s any vestige of [rivalry between two formerly separate] firms, that’s gone now. Everybody’s pulling together.

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