Accountant Tells of Billing Errors In O&M Trial

10 February 2005

The trial of two former Ogilvy & Mather advertising executives heard testimony from an accountant about the agency's incompetent system for billing the US government organization they allegedly defrauded.

Wesley Mandler was brought in by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to check O&M's billing of the $1 billion (€73m, £53m) business. He told the court that although starting work on the account in January 1999, the agency did not submit its first invoice until September that year.

When it appeared, it consisted of more than 10,000 sheets of paper. It was was riddled with errors, crossed out text, whiteout, "re-billing" efforts and correction tape. It took his team "two man months (or 360 total hours) to decipher the contents," Mandler wrote in an e-mail.

Ogilvy's sums did not add up, and the bills were full of "unexplained extra compensation ... [such as] bonuses, automobile allowances and health benefits," wrote Mandler in a memo to the ONDCP, and shown to the jury.

The prosecution claims erstwhile senior partners Shona Siefert and Thomas Early set an overbilling plot in motion to make up a $3 million shortfall in revenue on the account. Both deny charges of conspiracy to defraud.

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff