Former CP&B chief creative sues agency a month after DMA lawsuit

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Ralph Watson
Ralph Watson

Roughly a month after former Crispin Porter & Bogusky Boulder Chief Creative Officer Ralph Watson sued anonymous Instagram account Diet Madison Avenue for defamation, Watson is also suing his former agency and its holding company.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in the District of Colorado, names Crispin Porter & Bogusky as well as MDC Partners, the holding company that owns the agency; Mitchell Gendel, listed as the general counsel of MDC; Dusty Nelson, listed as the global chief financial officer for CP&B; and 10 unnamed individuals.

The suit lists a litany of charges, including age discrimination, civil conspiracy, defamation, intentional interference with contract, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and breach of contract.

It asks for compensatory damages according to proof, or in the event of default not less than $10 million; front pay, back pay and other monetary relief; punitive damages according to proof but not less than $10 million in the event of default; interest on the sum of damages rewarded; attorney's fees and any other further relief the court finds proper.

CP&B said in a statement that it "stands by its decision to terminate Mr. Watson's employment in February 2018. MDC Partners and CP&B intend to vigorously defend themselves and their employees against the litigation commenced on June 29, 2018 by Mr. Watson."

The suit claims that on Jan. 19, the Diet Madison Avenue Instagram account published a "series of knowingly false statements" that "wrongfully accused Plaintiff of being a sexual harasser." The suit says DMA used Instagram Stories to publish to its 7,500 followers at the time that he "targeted & groomed" women when they were "young & just starting out their careers."

Watson claims he was wrongfully terminated—despite being an "exemplary performer during his entire tenure with the agency"—on Feb. 2, "as a direct result of Diet Madison Avenue's false statements, pressure and interference."

The suit asserts CP&B doesn't have credible evidence to support its "'for cause' termination" because Watson claims to have not sexually harassed anyone or created a hostile work environment.

It also claims upper management including Gendel and Nelson "intentionally and maliciously agreed to a knowingly false plan to terminate Plaintiff 'for cause,' in a bad faith effort to quell the Diet Madison Avenue attacks against CP+B." The suit says defendants "essentially panicked" after the DMA posts and made the choice to terminate Watson instead of stand up to DMA's "cyber bullying"

The Diet Madison Avenue account has drawn broad attention in the advertising industry for naming men it claims have engaged in sexual harassment. After their names were posted on the account, big-name creatives including Droga5 Chief Creative Officer Ted Royer, Martin Agency Chief Creative Officer Joe Alexander and former Wieden & Kennedy London Chief Strategy Officer Paul Colman were separated from their agencies.

The previous lawsuit said the plaintiff believes the DMA account is run by at least 17 individuals "with assistance from at least another 42 individuals." The suit lists Instagram's privacy policy, which states the platform may access, preserve and share a user's information in response to a legal request or when Instagram believes that is necessary to detect, prevent and address fraud and other illegal activity.

Following the lawsuit against it in late May, Diet Madison Avenue launched a GoFundMe page for its legal expenses, with a goal of raising $100,000. As of Monday, it had raised $1,970.

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