After Abusive Behavior By Sorrell, WPP Will Review Its Codes Of Conduct

A day after the Financial Times published a story about the sometimes brutish treatment that former CEO Martin Sorrell inflicted on personal assistants and other company employees, current Co-Chief Operating Officer Mark Read issued a memo to company staffers, which suggested that going forward, such behavior on the part of anyone at the firm will not be tolerated.

“When I come to work I expect to be treated with respect by my colleagues, and every one of you reading this has the right to expect the same,” Read wrote.

“You will no doubt have read the press coverage this week about WPP and Martin Sorrell,” added Read, “including allegations about his behaviour towards people at the parent company. Although we can’t comment on specific allegations, I feel we should remind ourselves of and reinforce the kind of values we want and need to have within every part of our business: values of fairness, tolerance, kindness and — again — respect.

“It should hardly need saying that all WPP working environments must be places where people feel safe and supported. They must also be places where people are able to raise concerns if they want to, and where those concerns are dealt with when they need to be. “



The Financial Timesstory, based on what the publication said were interviews with more than two dozen sources who worked closely with Sorrell, reported at length about the former chief's mercurial behavior — and how he would often verbally abuse employees. The report also offered further details about the personal misconduct investigation carried out by the board of directors that led to Sorrell’s departure.

The publication uncovered what it characterized as “a picture of routine verbal abuse of underlings and a blending of Sir Martin’s corporate and private life that jarred with some colleagues — particularly over his company expenditure, some of which was also extended to his wife, Lady Cristiana Sorrell.”

The story adds additional detail to an allegation that Sorrell visited a high-end London brothel about a year ago, but reported that the company concluded there was no evidence in that particular instance that company funds were misused.

Ultimately, per the Times, Sorrell appears to have been brought down by whistleblowers who saw him enter the brothel and others who complained of the former chief’s abusive behavior.

In his memo, Read stated: “For many years, WPP has had the “Right to Speak” helpline, available to everyone across the Group, through which you can raise issues without fear of reprisal. This is an independently operated service that protects the identity of anyone who would rather not speak directly to their line manager or other senior people about their concerns. I encourage you to use it if you ever feel the need to report something on a confidential and anonymous basis. You can find the details for the helpline in each country on InsideWPP. “

Read added that he and co-Chief Operating Officer Andrew Scott will lead a review of the firm’s codes of conduct and related policies, how such policies are implemented and how they might be improved. “Our leadership teams will be doing this throughout the Group,” Read added.  

“We all want WPP and its agencies to continue to be home to the world’s best talent, which means creating a positive, supportive and inclusive culture in every office. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do,” Read stated.


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