DraftFCB Levels Poaching Lawsuit Against Digitas

Agency Alleges Former Employees Wrongly Recruited Former Colleagues to New Shop

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Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB has sued two former employees and cross-town agency Digitas, alleging that the pair wrongly recruited former DraftFCB colleagues after joining the Publicis Groupe -owned digital shop.

Chicago-based DraftFCB alleges that Brooke Skinner and Kevin Drew Davis -- a senior planning executive and digital creative exec, respectively -- violated signed agreements with DraftFCB that permitted them to defect to a competitor but mandated they could not to be involved in recruiting or hiring former colleagues for one year.

"Both of them have violated that agreement, for in the months after they joined Digitas, at least five of their DraftFCB colleagues, with whom they had worked closely while at DraftFCB, have joined them at Digitas," says the suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois.

The news of the lawsuit was first reported by Ad Age sibling Crain's Chicago Business.

Ms. Skinner, who was senior VP-planning at DraftFCB, led planning for the S.C. Johnson account business, according to the complaint.

When DraftFCB in July lost its longtime client S.C. Johnson after a review (the business went to Ogilvy and BBDO, and the move resulted in a round of layoffs of DraftFCB), Ms. Skinner left in August to join the Chicago office of Boston-based Digitas.

Rema Waugh, an associate media director who also worked on the S.C. Johnson account and with whom Ms. Skinner "collaborated closely," joined Digitas 10 days after Ms. Skinner, the lawsuit says. The complaint further states that Ms. Skinner collaborated with Seth Goldberg, senior VP-planning, who also left the agency to join Digitas earlier this month.

Mr. Davis, who was exec VP-head of digital creative, left in October to join Digitas, the complaint says. Since then, three former DraftFCB employees who worked in digital creative have joined Digitas, according to the suit. It says Nick Soonfah-Senior resigned Dec. 1; Matt Weiner resigned Jan. 13 and Morgan Aibinder resigned Feb. 22 , and that Mr. Weiner was one of two employees who reported to Mr. Davis at the time Mr. Davis left DraftFCB.

DraftFCB says in the suit that all employees are required to confirm their agreement with a code of conduct that includes a non-solicitation provision. The agency further contends that Digitas knew of the agreements and influenced Ms. Skinner and Mr. Davis to help hire their former co-workers against those agreements.

The agency is asking the court to temporarily and permanently restrain Digitas, Ms. Skinner, Mr. Davis and the other five former employees from directly or indirectly trying to hire any other DraftFCB employees, and for various damages to be determined at trial.

Tony Weisman, president of Digitas' Chicago, Boston and Detroit region, who joined the agency in 2007 after serving as chief marketing officer at DraftFCB, declined to comment. In an email, a DraftFCB spokesman said: "It is against company policy to discuss specifics around any pending litigation. We will say that if former employees violate non-solicitation agreements that they had willfully signed, we will take the necessary steps to enforce those agreements."

Poaching suits are often used as a tool in adland to publicly air grievances and try and put an end to employee defections. Back in 2008, the now defunct shop Agency.com sued iCrossing for allegedly carrying out a scheme to steal employees and clients such as 3M and Hilton in violation of non-solicitation clauses.

Often, not very much results from such suits.

About two years ago, another Interpublic Group agency, McCann, filed a poaching lawsuit against MDC Partners' KBS&P. The suit was quickly settled, and no monetary damages were paid. MDC and KBS&P merely agreed not to solicit any McCann employees for a period of six months.

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