O&M Duo Indicted for Drug Ad Overcharge Plot

07 January 2004

Thomas Early, senior partner and finance director at Ogilvy & Mather's New York office was indicted Tuesday for scheming to overcharge the US government in regard to its White House anti-drug advertising campaigns.

Also indicted is former O&M executive Shona Seifert who quit in 2002 to join TBWA/Chiat/Day as president.

Both are charged with ordering agency employees to revise their timesheets prior to submitting them to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during the period May 1999 to April 2000.

The indictments are the culmination of a long investigation by the US General Accounting Office and the Justice Department into alleged overcharging by the agency. O&M first began work on the account in 1998 and by 2000 its billing practices had attracted government scrutiny. Investigators claimed the agency had overbilled by $7.6 million (€5.60m; £4.19m) and referred the matter to the Justice Department.

O&M later admitted to "missteps" in its record-keeping and, in 2002, repaid $1.8m to the ONDCP to resolve civil charges. The indictments against Early and Siefert, if true, said the agency, indicated that "their behaviour was inconsistent with the high standards the company promotes and maintains".

Siefert has issued a statement denying the charges, while Early's lawyers were not available for comment. If convicted, the pair could serve up to five years in prison plus a $250,000 fine on each of eleven counts.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff