Lawyers Question JWT Investigation, Seek to Submit Video Evidence

Disc Is Said to Contain Footage of Offensive Incident in Miami

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Erin Johnson
Erin Johnson Credit: J. Walter Thompson Company

Lawyers for Erin Johnson, who filed a suit in New York last week against JWT and its Chairman-CEO Gustavo Martinez over alleged racist and sexist comments, have filed an amended complaint, which asks for approval to include the video they say shows Mr. Martinez making some of the alleged racist and sexist comments. The amended filing also takes issue with the agency's investigation into the matter.

In the amended complaint, filed Monday afternoon, lawyers for Ms. Johnson asked for approval to file the actual disc they say allegedly contains the comments. It reads: "Attached hereto as Exhibit A is a photocopy of a disc, which contains an excerpt of the video footage from the May 2015 meeting in Miami. Pursuant to the applicable procedures, plaintiff will seek approval from the Court to file a physical copy of the disc as part of this Amended Complaint with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York."

The comments referred to are detailed in the original complaint, which reads: "Martinez has made numerous comments about rape. In mid-May 2015, dozens of JWT employees traveled to Miami for an off-site retreat at a Miami hotel. On or about May 18, 2015, Martinez addressed a group of approximately 60 employees for a global meeting to pilot a new agency method for generating ideas. The previous night, there had been a large party at the hotel's night club attended by mostly African American guests. At the start of his presentation, Martinez described the hotel as 'tricky.' He explained that he 'found . . . different and strange characters in the elevator.' He further explained, 'I was thinking I was going to be raped at the elevator,' but 'not in a nice way.'"

The amended complaint takes issue with the investigation WPP and JWT said they are conducting. "Although defendants purported to be investigating Johnson's claims beginning on February 25, 2016, their statements to the press made clear the predetermined result of that alleged investigation. Indeed, immediately upon the filing of the Complaint, but while the investigation allegedly was ongoing, Martinez, through WPP, released a statement to the press that 'there is absolutely no truth to [plaintiffs] outlandish allegations.' Martinez thus falsely branded Johnson as both a liar and a perjurer with full knowledge that she is neither. Defendants' efforts to intimidate potential witnesses and chill any employee's corroboration of plaintiffs allegations, are clear."

The amended suit continues, mentioning the tape, which is referred to as Exhibit A. "In fact, as Martinez well knew, he cannot truthfully dispute the allegations of his unlawful conduct. As just one example, his biased remarks at the May 2015 meeting in Miami as alleged in Paragraphs 39 and 40 of the initial and the Amended Complaint, not only occurred in front of approximately 60 attendees, but were recorded on videotape. (Exhibit A)"

The suit also says that "JWT and WPP had failed to investigate the allegations of his misconduct for the many months that they were on notice and waited instead until after they had made clear that anyone who corroborated Johnson's allegations would be branded as liars and perjurers."

Last week, JWT released a statement saying, "we received the lawsuit on Thursday and take these kinds of allegations very seriously. Gustavo Martinez has asserted that the allegations are false. Following our standard practice, we are undertaking a thorough review of the matter and will comment further at the appropriate time and in the course of the litigation."

Asked to comment on the amended complaint, a JWT spokesman directed Ad Age to the company's previous statement that it will "comment further at the appropriate time in the litigation."

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