International law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP will oversee an audit and investigation of the Papa John’s International Inc. The audit and investigation will examine the existing processes, policies and systems related to diversity and inclusion, supplier and vendor engagement and Papa John’s culture.
The Akin Gump team, which will be led by partners Douglass Maynard and Estela Diaz, will retain and manage additional experts and consultants in this process.
“We’re focused on creating the right future for Papa John’s,” said Olivia Kirtley, lead independent director of the Papa John’s board and a member of a special committee organized for the undertaking. “The special committee of the board is committed to this thorough audit and investigation and to taking deliberate actions to rebuild trust at Papa John’s and to ensure that this company is driven by the values of diversity, equity, inclusion and respect.”
In an open letter last week, Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie attempted to distinguish the company from founder John Schnatter who is under fire for racist remarks that have sent the pizza brand into a downward spiral.
“I know the words of John Schnatter were offensive, and nothing pains me more than knowing they hurt you. To be clear, those words in no way represent my views or the values of our company. As the leader of Papa John’s, I’m sorry,” he said.
“Racism and insensitive language – no matter the context – will not be tolerated at any level of our company. Period. Papa John’s is not an individual. Papa John’s is a pizza company with 120,000 corporate and franchise team members around the world. These are the people in your communities from all walks of life who work hard to provide you with better service and better pizza.”
Promising action, Ritchie laid out a a multi-step strategy for rebuilding trust in the brand including the audit as well a cross-country listening of senior management.
The members of the special committee are all outside directors who serve on Papa John’s board, and no current or former employees of Papa John’s, including those who are on the board, will serve on the special committee.