An alleged plot by senior Ogilvy and Mather staff to overbill the US government was widespread within the company, a New York court heard.

Former O&M executives Shona Siefert and Thomas Early are accused of conspiring in 1999 to illicitly compensate for a $3 million (€2.3m, £1.6m) revenue shortfall on the Office of National Drug Policy Control's $1 billion account. But witnesses say many other managers at the agency were involved.

Abby Auerbach, ex-director of broadcast and senior agency partner, told the court she and five former managers met to discuss how timesheets could be faked or revised to log more hours than were actually worked on the anti-drugs campaign. Auerbach has escaped prosecution in return for giving evidence.

Another witness, testifying under the same terms, was Bob Evans, assistant to former senior partner Ray Simko. Evans says he checked every media department timesheet, returning them to any buyer who failed to log the number of ONDCP hours ordered on a staffing plan.

Under cross-examination by Siefert's and Early's defense lawyers, Evans and Auerbach both said they had not received any instructions from the accused.

The prosecution claims former senior partners Siefert and Early instigated the overbilling in response to North America co-president Bill Gray's anger at the revenue gap.

The pair entered a not guilty plea to eleven charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government. If convicted they face up to five years in jail.

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