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The Case of the Lead Toys

 Todd Rakoff and Joseph William Singer  
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28 pages
Product Type:
Workshop-Based Case Study
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In July 2007 toy maker Mattel came under fire when one of its European retailers found lead paint on some Mattel toys manufactured in China. Mattel stopped operations at the factory that produced the toys, conducted an investigation, and eventually recalled 83 affected products. The case asks students to play the role of the General Counsel for Mattel, determine what questions to ask their client, and draft a press release to communicate to the public about the crisis.  The problem fits in the general category of avoiding trouble or distributing losses that have already occurred.

Learning Objectives

  • Begin to develop a systematic approach to problem solving when faced with an unresolved issue or new situation.
  • Discuss whether lawyers should advise clients as if they were solely interested in taking maximum advantage of their legal rights or if their advice should encompass the full range of the client’s concerns, engaging the client's moral compass in deciding whether it is right to pursue a legally-available objective.
  • Learn how to define and represent a client when the client is an entity or organization; identify and appropriately respond to conflicts of interest among an organization’s stakeholders.
  • Understand the legal constraints and repercussions of writing public statements on behalf of a publically traded company engaged in a controversial situation.

Subjects Covered

Risk Averseness, Acting in the Shadow of the Law, Conflicts of Interest, SEC Regulations, Public Disclosure, Crisis Management


Geographic: United States, China, Europe

Industry: Consumer Goods, Toys

Event Year Begin: 2007

Hard Copy

For hard copies, please contact Lisa Brem E-mail: lbrem@law.harvard.edu; Ph: +1-617-495-8689

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Additional Information

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The Problem Solving Workshop: A Video Introduction


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