A law firm that is suing WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell for defamation has urged a New York Court not to throw out its case, as Sorrell requested last month.
Sorrell argued that the law firm -- Sabharwal & Finkel (S&F) -- was “libel proof,” in part because its reputation has already been tarnished by the past behavior of one of its partners, who publicly acknowledged taking clients to strip clubs.
Sorrell's motion to dismiss cited a 2006 USA Today article that described S&F partner Rohit Sabharwal as “a regular” at a popular New York City strip club known as Rick’s Cabaret. The article states that Sabharwal “says he often takes clients of his small law firm with him and that such entertaining was common when he was at a large firm, too.”
But S&F argued that Sorrell’s libel-proof assertion, based on Sabharwal’s strip club activities, “is nothing more than an odious publicity stunt."
“Sorrell cannot take his proverbial foot out of his mouth,” S&F stated in papers filed with the New York State Supreme Court last week. The firm said that Sorrell’s raising of the strip club meetings was “foolish, irrelevant and merely designed to exploit the judicial process to generate media buzz."
S&F argued that lawyer-client meetings at strip clubs do not tarnish anyone’s reputation and do not make the firm libel-proof.
In fact, the firm’s papers stated, “the IRS allows businesses to claim deductions for expenses incurred at strip clubs, evidencing not only that the federal government recognizes such meetings as proper business meetings, but also that business professionals routinely conduct such meetings. Indeed, if taking clients to strip clubs makes a person libel proof as Sorrell [and his law firm] state, then almost everybody on Wall Street and most lawyers would be libel proof, along with most corporate employees."
S&F also noted that the strip club activities referenced by Sorrell occurred six years before S&F was formed and have had “absolutely no impact on the reputations” of the firm or its partners “and there is no justifiable basis in law to suggest otherwise.”
S&F filed its defamation suit this summer after Sorrell made alleged disparaging comments to a business publication about the firm, which is also representing New Delhi Television in a separate suit against WPP and Nielsen, in connection with a ratings service the companies jointly operate in India.