JWT, Johnson Battle Over 'Smoking Gun' DVD

Gustavo Martinez is no longer CEO of WPP’s J. Walter Thompson, but the harassment lawsuit filed by the agency’s Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson against him is still ongoing and the two sides are now fighting over the admissibility of a DVD recording of an agency retreat that Johnson claims backs up some of her charges.

The legal teams for both sides yesterday filed letters with the New York Federal court presenting their arguments.

Howard Rubin of Davis & Gilbert, the law firm representing Martinez, the agency and its holding company, urged Judge J. Paul Oetken not to allow the admission of the tape -- at least for now, because the defense side was not aware that a copy of the tape still existed until Johnson requested it be admitted earlier this week.

“Plaintiff has apparently kept the only copy of that fuller version which JWT did not even know existed,” the defendants argued through their law firm, which also noted that Johnson and her law firm (Vladeck, Raskin & Clark) have refused to make the DVD available to them.



The WPP side also argued that the event being recorded discussed a process that is “highly confidential and proprietary to JWT, which would suffer “significant damage” if the recording were made public. Johnson earlier described it as a process to “pilot a new method for generating ideas.”

In a responding letter one of Johnson’s lawyers, Anne Vladeck, dismissed the opposing side’s arguments noting they were just plain wrong in asserting that the DVD at issue contains any confidential and proprietary material.

The content on the DVD contains less than a minute of footage and consists “entirely of the biased remarks of [Martinez]” made at a JWT retreat in Miami that were described in detail in both the initial and amended complaints filed by Johnson.

Johnson attorney Vladeck also denied that her client had improperly kept the video unbeknownst to JWT. “In fact, plaintiff advised, at a minimum, the head of human resources at JWT that she had safeguarded it out of concern about the biased conduct that it reflected.” Johnson also told Martinez she had the recording and neither he nor the HR head asked her to return it, she told the court via the letter.

“Moreover,” Vladeck argued, “plaintiff’s maintaining such evidence of the discriminatory environment that flourished at JWT is protected activity, an issue certainly not to be determined in the context of a motion to preclude an exhibit to a complaint.”

Somewhat amusingly, both sides accused the other of making efforts to try the case in the press.

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