print   email   Share

Why Professional Negotiators Are Important After A Business Kidnapping

How should you respond to the news of an employee's kidnapping?

Most kidnappings take place in countries where governments are weak and territory is disputed. Without a police force able to help, you will need to negotiate to get your loved one or employee back. So, what is the "right" price for his or her life?

One expert analyzed the problem using the tools of economics and examined it from the perspective of all parties. The kidnappers want to extract the maximum amount of profit, yet do not want to be caught. Often, their first demand is unreasonable, but they are really trying to determine how much the victim is really worth. Depending on how the victim's representatives respond, the kidnappers will either revise the ransom upwards or downwards. If they are offered a large amount, say a million dollars, straightaway, the kidnappers will believe there is a lot more they can extract.

Therefore, the best response to a ransom demand is to never agree immediately to a kidnapper's demands, according to the expert. If the kidnappers have time, they will keep doubling the price and judge the response to this accordingly. If the kidnappers agree to the first ransom offer they are given, they are probably negotiating from the back of a car, and are desperate to return the hostage in exchange for a quick payoff.

By contrast, a swiftly agreed, overgenerous ransom puts a bulls-eye target on your wider family, your firm's other employees (if you are travelling with work), and fellow nationals. News of easy profits spread quickly in criminal communities and can cause local or regional kidnapping booms.

Getting the right price requires haggling out a compromise that both satisfies the kidnappers and is affordable for the victims' representatives. Economic reasoning tells us where this undignified bartering ends: kidnappers will release their victim when the cost of holding on to the hostage exceeds what they expect to gain from the next round of ransom negotiations.

When foreigners are abducted in a kidnap-prone area, there is often a need for a professional ransom negotiator. For kidnap insurers, it is of paramount importance that hostage markets develop norms of non-violence and ways of negotiating ransoms that facilitate swift and reliable releases - while at the same time ensuring that kidnapping is not an easy way to riches. "Inside the ransom business" (Feb. 20, 2019).


Firms doing business in areas of the world where executive kidnappings are common may do well to consider purchasing kidnapping insurance and employing kidnapping negotiators as a means to manage a hostage situation.

Insurers in this area are specialized and can coach their clients in how to handle the ransom negotiation, how to react to threats, and when to stay firm. The goal of the hostage negotiators is to barter the kidnappers down to a price that just about covers the costs of staging the kidnap and conducting the negotiation.

The result is an orderly but very limited market for foreign hostages in which the crime barely pays. The kidnapping of expatriates, tourists, and foreign firms’ local staff is discouraged by the unhurried, firm approach to negotiations.

Hostage incidents that are resolved by professional crisis responders result in the safe return of more than 97 percent of kidnap victims. For the few cases that go awry, the main problems are pre-existing medical conditions and escape attempts.

The vast majority of insured hostage negotiations concludes in less than a week, and generally are paid with ransoms that do not break the bank, keeping other travelers and expatriates safe. By contrast, if people instead fundraise aggressively; mobilize the media; or lobby politicians to get involved, they most likely they are to put their loved one in greater peril and more people at risk.

Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey:


Log-in to access Training Modules, Article Archives, Model Policies and more!

Latest Numbers

Unemployment Rate

3.8% in Mar 2019

Payroll Employment

+196,000(p) in Mar 2019

Average Hourly Earnings

+$0.04(p) in Mar 2019

Employment Cost Index (ECI)

+0.7% in 4th Qtr of 2018


+1.9% in 4th Qtr of 2018

Source: Department of Labor

Chubb Offers for Employment Practices Liability (EPL) Insured:

Loss Prevention Reimbursement Credit

HR Acuity On-Demand

Best Practice Minute

Available presentations

What's New

Fighting Cybercrime Starts With Addressing Employee Cyber Negligence

New statistics show the risks associated with employee negligence and cybercrime. We provide the data and provide some best practice steps. Read More

Protecting Privileged Credentials: An Essential Step In Cybersecurity

Organizations must take measures to prevent privileged access credential abuse, the leading cause of data breaches. Read ways to protect these valuable credentials. Read More

Knowing The Risk, Why Do You Continue To Reuse Your Password?

Although they know better, most people still fail to use unique passwords for their online work and personal accounts. Learn ways to create passwords that are harder to decipher, but that you will remember. Read More