O&M Billing Trial Hears Closing Arguments

21 February 2005

US prosecutors have been summing up as the Ogilvy & Mather agency fraud trial in the nears its conclusion.

The New York courtroom was told the accused pair, former O&M senior partners Shona Seifert and Thomas Early, orchestrated an over-billing plot on the government's Office of National Drug Policy Contol account out of greed and to save their careers.

It is alleged they ordered media department staff to falsify timesheets and inflate hours worked on the $1 billion (€769m, £532m) antidrugs business in response to agency co-president Bill Gray's ire over a $3 million revenue shortfall.

Said US attorney Lauren Goldberg: "For Tom Early and Shona Seifert, it was about hitting their numbers. It was about bringing in the revenue they'd committed to."

She ridiculed earlier defense claims that the shortfall was not important to the agency, saying: "Of course, that's the way corporate America works. Senior managers don't care about multimillion dollar shortfalls."

Seifert and Early deny conspiracy to defraud but face up to five years in jail if convicted.

Seifert's lawyer Gregory Craig painted a more benign picture, claiming: "Shona's world was filled with hard work and creative challenges. There was no time for lies and greed."

He poured scorn on prosecution witnesses, former O&M executives Robert Zach and Peter Chrisanthopoulos, both of whom have sought reduced sentences by cooperating with the investigation. He branded Zach "national liar of the year".

The jury was expected to begin deliberations after Early's defense gave its closing arguments.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff