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CAREERISM & GREED MADE SEIFERT & EARLY DO IT, SAYS PROSECUTOR

Shona Had 'No Time for Lies and Greed' Counters Defense Summation

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Careerism and greed were the reasons two former Ogilvy & Mather executives conducted a large-scale effort to defraud the national anti-drug advertising program in 1999, a federal prosecutor told the jury in U.S. District Court today.
Photo: Louis Lanzano
Shona Seifert, current president of Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, outside the U.S. District courthouse where her Ogilvy-related trial is being held.

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Full Background:
BACKGROUND: THE WHITE HOUSE DRUG OFFICE ADVERTISING CASE
The Stories From 2001 to the Present

Read the 14-page indictment .pdf

Conspiracy's 'architects'
Summing up the government's case against Shona Seifert and Thomas Early, U.S. attorney Lauren Goldberg said testimony and evidence showed the two were the "architects and leaders" of a conspiracy to over-bill the Office of National Drug Control Policy for the ad work performed by the WPP Group agency.

Ms. Seifert, now president of Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, and Mr. Early, former finance director at the New York Ogilvy office Ogilvy, could face up to five years in prison if convicted of defrauding the government as charged. They have pleaded not guilty.

In her closing arguments, Ms. Goldberg said the conspiracy to revise timesheets and inflate hours, which involved many past members of Ogilvy's media department, was set in motion by the projected $3 million revenue shortfall discovered just months after the agency won the highly coveted account.

'About hitting their numbers'
"For Tom Early and Shona Seifert, it was about hitting their numbers," Ms. Goldberg said. "It was about bringing in the revenue they'd committed to."

In his own closing argument, Ms. Seifert's attorney Gregory Craig countered with a two-pronged approach, first painting his client as a hard-working, successful business leader who cared deeply about the ONDCP work and then lashing out at the government's evidence. In particular, he hammered away at key witnesses Robert Zach and Peter Chrisanthopoulos, former Ogilvy media executives who pleaded guilty to similar charges and are cooperating with the government.

"Bob Zach deserves the Grammy, the Tony and the Oscar all rolled together as the national liar of the year," said Mr. Craig, an eloquent though plain-talking lawyer who represented former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. Mr. Craig zoomed in on Mr. Zach's inability to remember dates for conversations in which he claimed the defendants ordered him to revise timesheets and to tell others to do the same. "In Bob Zach's world, there are no dates: You don't know where or when meetings take place because that will allow you to corroborate them."

Bob Zach's word
"To doubt Bob Zach's word is not just reasonable, it's mandatory," he told the jury.

When the jurors begin their deliberations tomorrow, after Mr. Early's attorney sums up, they will have to sift through a mountain of physical evidence in the form of timesheets, invoices, e-mails and memos, as well as the testimony of the defendants' former colleagues, many of whom have either pleaded guilty or agreed to testify in return for not being charged with similar crimes. The jury watched many of those witnesses get picked apart in cross-examinations designed to cloud their credibility.

In her briskly paced summation, Ms. Goldberg walked the jurors through the government's most pointed pieces of evidence, urging them not to disregard the testimony of those witnesses if other evidence corroborates that testimony. She also criticized Mr. Early's and Ms. Seifert's testimonies, saying, "You should scrutinize their testimony very carefully, and it makes absolutely no sense."

Defense downplays revenue shortfall
On the witness stand this week, the defendants tried to play down the revenue shortfall's impact on Ogilvy. They painted the timesheet revisions as a harmless activity designed to correct documents that didn't meet government regulations or had been filled out incorrectly.

Ms. Goldberg mocked that version of events. "Of course, that's the way corporate America works," she said. "Senior managers don't care about multimillion-dollar shortfalls." Earlier in the trial, prosecutors put Ogilvy's New York president, Bill Gray, on the stand. He testified he was angered after learning about the shortfall. More generally, the prosecution has tried to make the case that the executives' bonuses and those of their subordinates were at stake because of the shortfall.

'No time for lies and greed'
Mr. Craig spent much of his nearly two-hour closing argument emphasizing Ms. Seifert's sterling personal and professional reputation, which was born out by some testimony of some government witnesses. "Shona's world was filled with hard work and creative challenges," he said. "There was no time for lies and greed."

Mr. Craig also reminded jurors of Ogilvy's success on the ONDCP account, which Ogilvy won in 1999 and kept until last year, despite very public problems. If the prosecution is successful, he said, "this fraud will go down in the history of American jurisprudence as the only alleged fraud in which the victim came out ahead."

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