In early 2022, as most of the globe emerged from severe Covid restrictions, the world was rocked again by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine. The Program on Negotiation’s Top 10 Notable Negotiations of 2022 include talks aimed at ending the war and easing its impact, as well as a range of government and business negotiations.
10. Bringing Brittney Griner home. In government negotiations to secure the release of Women’s National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner from Russia, where she was imprisoned for bringing cannabis oil into the country, U.S. president Joe Biden faced wrenching choices. The Kremlin insisted it would trade only Griner for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, imprisoned in the States, and would not include former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, serving 16 years in Russia on espionage charges. In a deal that highlights the challenges of negotiating with ruthless opponents like Russian president Vladimir Putin, Biden opted to bring Griner home.
9. Complicitors in the downfall of FTX. Early in 2022, Sam Bankman-Fried raised $500 million from investors for FTX, his cryptocurrency exchange, by making a “take-it-or-leave-it offer,” the New York Times reports. Without leaving room for negotiation, Bankman-Fried told investors he planned to run the company with little oversight and encouraged them to “support him and observe,” according to one investor who heard the pitch. By the end of the year, FTX had collapsed, and Bankman-Fried had been arrested for wire fraud, money laundering, and other charges. The fact that so many seasoned investors fell for FTX’s claims highlights the risk of becoming complicit with wrongdoing in negotiation.
8. A surge in strikes. As in 2021, labor shortages gave workers leverage to demand better treatment from their employers this year. When New York City and several states moved to reduce the persistent earnings gap between men and women by requiring employers to include salary ranges in job ads, numerous companies started doing so voluntarily. Many workers successfully voted to unionize, including employees at 200 Starbucks stores. In addition, strikes were up 39% in 2022 over last year. The University of California reached a tentative agreement to end a strike by about 36,000 employees, promising wage increases of up to 55%. These trends show the power individuals can gain by forming coalitions intent on change.
7. Consolidation is blocked in publishing. In the realm of M&A negotiation, the Biden administration continued its efforts to curb corporate consolidations and promote competition this year. Most notably, in October, the Justice Department won its bid to block publisher Penguin Random House’s planned $2.18 billion acquisition of rival Simon & Schuster. The outcome had some experts wondering if Amazon would be the next target of the government’s efforts to promote competition in publishing.
6. Elon Musk’s Twitter debacle. Most of 2022 was consumed with the question of whether Tesla CEO Elon Musk would buy Twitter. After he finally did, in October, the rest of the year was taken up with the question of whether Twitter would survive Musk. The leader’s disastrous postdeal moves—from laying off key personnel to crowdsourcing pivotal business decisions in Twitter polls—shine a spotlight on a common negotiation mistake: focusing more on closing a deal than on what will happen when it does.
5. An ambitious global agreement on biodiversity. In December, all nations but two—the United States and the Holy See—approved a sweeping United Nations agreement aimed at safeguarding 30% of the Earth’s land and oceans by 2030 and taking other actions to prevent biodiversity loss. The nonbinding agreement is an attempt to stem a projected extinction of one million plants and animals in the decades ahead as a result of climate change, agriculture, overfishing, pollution, and other factors attributed to humans. U.S. participation was blocked by Republicans, who appeared to view the talks as a win-lose negotiation between business and environmental interests.
4. A rail strike averted. This year, the specter of a strike or lockout loomed over a high-stakes labor dispute between U.S. freight rail companies and their employees’ labor unions. With almost one-third of U.S. freight carried by rail, an interruption in service was expected to devastate the economy. The parties reached a deal, but a majority of union members then rejected it, angered by a requirement that they use unpaid leave to attend medical appointments. Congress swooped in, voting overwhelmingly to impose the agreement and avoid a work stoppage.
3. Congress passes a gun-safety deal. Against long odds, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan gun-safety bill, which Biden signed into law on June 25. In the aftermath of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, 15 Republican senators were willing to make concessions on their party’s steadfast resistance to gun-control measures. The behind-the-scenes maneuvering offers advice to those working on closing the deal in negotiations, including the importance of selling your agreement to constituents and framing the deal for maximum impact.
2. A modest—but critical—agreement between Russia and Ukraine. After Russia blockaded the Black Sea at the start of its war on Ukraine, most of Ukraine’s abundant grain harvest was trapped in silos. Without it, famine and political unrest were real risks in East Africa and the Middle East. A three-month international negotiation process led to a July agreement between Russia and Ukraine to bring more grain to market. Russia briefly withdrew from the deal in October, after accusing Ukraine of using the maritime corridor to stage military attacks, but the parties managed to extend the deal, which has eased food prices worldwide. It was a small sign of hope amid a brutal conflict.
1. The West unites on Russia sanctions. Just days after Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced they would unleash the most punishing sanctions package ever deployed against a single country—the result of feverish negotiations that caused the Russian ruble to collapse. The determination and tenacity of the Ukrainian people and their leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, inspired the usually fractious parties in the West to come together. Sanctions haven’t stopped Putin’s war, but they have hampered his ability to fight it.
What other negotiations would you add to this list of Top 10 Notable Negotiations of 2022?