Ogilvy & Mather will contribute to the legal fees of two former executives accused of overbilling the US government.

The WPP Group unit made the pledge last week after Shona Seifert and Thomas Early pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It is claimed the duo illegitimately hiked labor costs on the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy account from May 1999 through April 2000. Prosecutors allege that they directed certain O&M employees to revise already completed timesheets for work on the ONDCP business.

After the indictment, Early quit his position as senior partner and finance director at the agency [WAMN: 08-Jan-03]. Seifert, formerly a senior partner and executive group director at O&M, left two years ago to become president of crosstown shop TBWA/Chiat/Day.

O&M settled civil charges relating to the overbilling row almost two years ago at a cost of $1.8 million (€1.4m; £1.0m). When the indictments were announced last week, the agency initially appeared to distance itself from the duo, stating that, if the charges were true, "their behavior was inconsistent with the high standards the company promotes and maintains."

O&M denies its decision to help fund their legal battle contradicts this statement. "Ogilvy covers certain legal expenses by law for matters occurring during employment," declared a spokesman. "And by law, the privacy of our employees and former employees precludes us from saying anything more."

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