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SEIFERT AND EARLY FOUND GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Remain Free on Bail; Sentencing Set for May 16

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After deliberating less than six hours, a jury today found former Ogilvy & Mather executives Shona Seifert and Thomas Early guilty of conspiracy and fraud in the administration of the agency's work on the White House anti-drug office ad account in 1999.
Photo: Louis Lanzano
Thomas Early and Shona Seifert were found guilty of masterminding a scheme to defraud the ONDCP with overbillings for Ogilvy & Mather advertising services.

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Deliberations Begin on Conspiracy and Fraud Charges
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Shona Had 'No Time for Lies and Greed' Counters Defense Summation
THOMAS EARLY SPARS WITH PROSECUTORS DURING TESTIMONY
Shona Seifert E-mail Promises to 'Wring the Money Out of' ONDCP
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Jury Hears the Most Important Pitch of Her Career: 'I'm Innocent'
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OGILVY TIMESHEET LAWSUIT BY WHISTLE-BLOWER REVEALED
Accountant Cites 'Excessive' Amounts of Missing Timesheets, Scribbles and Wite-Outs
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OGILVY COLLEAGUE TESTIFIES SEIFERT, EARLY APPROVED SCHEME
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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

Mr. Early and Ms. Seifert, who will be sentenced May 16, face up to the five years in prison and a fine. Following the reading of the verdict, the pair remained free in accordance with their bail agreements.

Attorneys for both defendants said they would appeal the verdict.

Guilty on 10 counts
The jury in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan convicted the defendants on all 10 counts against them. The first count was conspiracy to defraud the government; the remaining counts were for filing false claims against the government in the form of billing vouchers submitted to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Upon hearing the verdict, Judge Richard Berman asked each of the jurors whether they agreed. As each of the 12 responded with a simple "yes," Ms. Seifert sunk her face into her hands. Her husband, sitting in the gallery as he has since the trial began earlier this month, did the same. Mr. Early stared straight ahead, and many of the defendants' large legal teams were visibly upset and cast their gazes down.

After dismissing the jury, Judge Berman left the bench to thank its members in an adjacent room. An awkward silence filled the courtroom in his absence. Ms. Seifert's lead attorney, Gregory Craig, surrendered his seat to her husband, John Seifert. While awaiting the judge's return, Ms. Seifert whispered in her husband's ear as he stared straight ahead. Meanwhile, Mr. Craig, best-known for defending former President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, slumped gloomily in a chair behind the defense table.

Declined comment
Mr. Craig and Ms. Seifert declined to comment on the verdict and whether they would appeal. Mr. Early and his attorneys lingered in the courthouse afterward and couldn't be immediately reached.

It's unclear what will become of Ms. Seifert, who left Ogilvy in 2002 to become president of the New York office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of the Omnicom Group. Last year, the agency brought in another executive, Brett Gosper, who has assumed Ms. Seifert's role. Many executive employment contracts are voided by felony convictions, but a TBWA spokesman declined to comment on whether that was true of Ms. Seifert's agreement.

Mr. Early stepped down last year as finance director of Ogilvy's New York office. He is currently unemployed.

The relatively short period of deliberation was striking given the length and complexity of the case. Testimony lasted for more than two weeks and involved dozens of witnesses and scores of documents, as the jury was asked to plumb the obscure depths of how advertising agencies charge clients for the work they perform.

Key witnesses
The crux of the prosecution's case relied on former Ogilvy executives, two of whom who pleaded guilty to similar charges, and their testimony that Ms. Seifert and Mr. Early directed a scheme to overbill the ONDCP account when it became clear that it wasn't making enough money. These employees said a projected shortfall of $3 million triggered a plan to inflate hours worked by doctoring timesheets and fabricating hours spent on the account.

The heart of the defense's strategy turned out to be the testimonies of the defendants, who last week took the witness stand to make their case. However, those testimonies failed to dent the prosecution's case, despite its own shortcomings. For instance, the government attorneys often struggled to communicate exactly how much the government was overbilled. They also at times had trouble linking the defendants to the actions of lower-level employees, who largely inhabited the Ogilvy media department. Each defendant worked in other departments.

But, besides bringing out a number of former Ogilvy staffers, the prosecution also presented strong physical evidence pointing to the defendants' involvement, including a handwriting analysis that linked Ms. Seifert to timesheets that had orders to shift hours worked on other accounts to the ONDCP account.

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