O&M's Early Jailed for ONDCP Fraud

14 July 2005

Thomas Early, former senior partner and finance director of Ogilvy & Mather's New York office, yesterday paid the price for toeing the corporate line.

Along with colleague Shona Siefert, one-time president of the Manhattan agency, Early was convicted in February of a plot to recoup a $3 million shortfall in anticipated billings from the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. They did so by instructing O&M employees to falsify timesheets and bill time they had not worked

On Wednesday Early was sentenced to fourteen months in prison and a fine of $10,000 (€8,271; £5,697) for his part in the deception. He will also serve a further two years under federal supervision following his release from jail.

Seifert will be sentenced today, Thursday, and faces the prospect of five years in prison. Among the evidence that led to her conviction was an email written by Siefert to an unnamed (and presumably senior) colleague. This read: "I'll wring the money out of them. I promise."

The guilty pair were allegedly responding to the anger of O&M North America's co-president Bill Gray at the loss of anticipated income. Gray was not among the accused.

In 2002, O&M extricated itself (but not its employees) from the affair with a $1.8 million settlement to the Justice Department.

The $130 million ONCDP account is seen by many on Madison Avenue as a poisoned chalice due to its inherent and pervasive politicking. When up for an all-comers pitch in September 2004, only two contenders (Foote Cone & Belding and J Walter Thompson) displayed any serious interest in the business.

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