As first reported on AdAge.com, Dentsu's U.S. arm late yesterday filed a motion in a New York federal court seeking dismissal of Mr. Biegel's sexual-harassment and discrimination complaint against the company -- as well as Dentsu Holdings CEO Toyo Shigeta and Tim Andree, head of Dentsu's North American operations.
In its court filing, Dentsu accuses not only Mr. Biegel but also his lawyer, Andrew Dwyer, of devising a plan "to get (Dentsu) to pay him an exorbitant amount of money despite Biegel's lawful termination."
Reached for comment, Mr. Dwyer said: "They will get our response in court." A response to Dentsu's motion to dismiss is expected to be filed within two weeks.
Mr. Biegel, who worked on the agency's Canon and Toyota accounts and was fired from his post as senior VP-group creative director at Dentsu in November 2006, in late October filed a sexual-harassment and discrimination complaint against his former employer seeking unspecified and compensatory damages.
The scandalous details of that lawsuit included alleged trips to a Prague brothel and a Tokyo bathhouse, as well as a commercial shoot during which Mr. Shigeta allegedly snapped a "crotch shot" of tennis star and Canon spokeswoman Maria Sharapova in April 2005.
Following his initial suit, Mr. Biegel this month filed a revised complaint adding claims for defamation and retaliation. Dentsu publicly accused Mr. Biegel of fraud and publicly attacked his professional competence in the wake of his lawsuit, the amended suit said.
Dentsu denies the validity of all of those claims.
"If he thought he had valid legal claims, he should have filed his lawsuit a year ago," Steve Ellwanger, a spokesman for Dentsu, said yesterday. "Instead, he prepared his lawsuit and showed it to some of Dentsu's biggest clients while he and his attorney were attempting to extract in excess of $1 million from Dentsu."
According to Dentsu's filing, Mr. Biegel shared the prepared draft of the lawsuit with more than just Dentsu clients; he also informed Ms. Sharapova's agent of the proposed complaint in "a last-stab attempt to get money from the defendants," according to the court papers.
Ms. Sharapova's agent, Max Eisenbud of IMG, did not return calls.
Dentsu's motion to dismiss further argues that no evidence exists to support Mr. Biegel's claims of faith-based discrimination by Dentsu management.
Said Mr. Ellwanger: "He was Jewish when he was hired by Dentsu, he was Jewish when he was fired, and his firing was approved by the president of Dentsu, who is also Jewish. Mr. Biegel has provided not one shred of proof that his faith had anything to do with his firing."
Dentsu appears to have changed its approach toward Mr. Biegel's claims; rather than firing back with its own action against Mr. Biegel, the agency is trying to get the claims thrown out of court.
In the wake of his initial lawsuit, the agency vowed to fire back at the allegations with a "counterclaim that Mr. Biegel has libeled Dentsu and defrauded the company," and said it looked forward to vindicating itself in court.
Now, in order to avoid a countersuit, Dentsu wants to see if its motion to dismiss is successful before presiding judge Colleen McMahon. If Mr. Biegel's suit is not dismissed, however, Dentsu will file an action of its own, Mr. Ellwanger said.