So is he or isn’t he? A country manager for WPP in Europe, that is.
I refer to Gustavo Martinez and his reported job status as the holding company's operations head in Spain. Martinez -- who, along with ad agency JWT and parent company WPP, is being sued by JWT Chief Communications Officer Erin Johnson for sex harassment and retaliation.
Johnson’s suit, filed in March of last year, focuses on alleged unwanted touching and other misbehavior, including retaliation by Martinez, who was JWT CEO at the time. He was out as agency CEO within a week of the suit’s filing. The suit also alleges failures by the agency and the holding company to take appropriate remedial action.
The case has heated up in recent weeks as the two sides have battled over discovery issues. Last week, Johnson filed papers related to a motion to compel, asserting that Martinez has been WPP’s country manager for Spain since the beginning of the year.
Johnson has accused Martinez and WPP of foot dragging in response to numerous discovery requests, including information about Martinez’s job status at WPP.
In previous depositions, Martinez and WPP CEO Martin Sorrell stated that the former JWT CEO has been working on various corporate “projects” for the company in Europe.
Last Friday, Johnson essentially accused both men of lying in depositions about Martinez’s status at the holding company. In a filing dated October 20, Johnson’s lawyers wrote to the judge hearing the case that “we have now learned of information that squarely contradicts the deposition testimony of Sorrell and Martinez, as well as Martinez’s representations to this court.”
Johnson’s lawyers cited an article in a Spanish trade journal that referred to Martinez as WPP’s country manager in Spain. The lawyers told the judge, based on the article, that it is a position Martinez was promoted to in January, contradicting the later deposition testimony.
“Plaintiff has a right to question these witnesses about Martinez’s ongoing role for WPP and his apparent promotion in January 2017,” Johnson’s legal team wrote, adding that Johnson also “has a right to question Sorrell and Martinez about their failure to disclose Martinez’s full role and arguable misrepresentations at their earlier depositions.”
Martinez’s job status and related document requests, Johnson’s team argued, “are relevant to the favorable treatment afforded Martinez, who engaged in unlawful harassment, as compared to defendant’s treatment of plaintiff who complained of harassment.”
In response, Martinez filed a letter with the court asserting that the trade paper was “inaccurate,” implying, but stopping short of outright saying he is not the head of operations for the holding company in Spain.
There was no clarification in the Martinez filing on exactly what his current role is at the holding company.
And that, it would seem, is something that everyone is entitled to know, given the serious accusations being leveled at Martinez by Johnson. That said, it also seems a little odd that Johnson would call out Sorrell as a liar based on a foreign trade-press report. Who knows what was lost in translation? And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a trade-press article was inaccurate, as Martinez contends.
But the fact that Martinez is still with the company at all raises questions. His alleged misbehavior disqualifies him for a management role in the U.S. but not in Europe? Not sure I get that.
Then again, why would Sorrell lie under oath about something that would seem relatively easy to prove or disprove? That sounds like something Trump would do, not a competent executive like Sorrell.
A year ago, I would have bet on a relatively quick settlement in this case. Too late for that now. It’s been going on for 19 months with no end in sight.