It was a good day for Ralph Watson, the former CP+B creative who was fired earlier this year after anonymous reports on social media accused him of being a sex predator.
The accusations were published by an anonymous group called Diet Madison Avenue. Watson sued the group in a California court for defamation and the court today authorized subpoenas demanding that Instagram, and parent Facebook, along with Google’s Gmail, provide information identifying the individuals behind Diet Madison Avenue.
AdAge.com had the news first earlier today.
This is a good development. Sex harassment is a horrible thing that sadly has long been part of American business culture for decades. But accusations should be on the record, just as they are in dozens of cases that have been revealed since The New York Times and The New Yorker broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal wide open last fall.
Recently, on-the-record allegations against CBS CEO Leslies Moonves were disclosed by The New Yorker last week.
Careers are at stake and harassers should be fired. But anonymity leaves too much room for hidden agendas and the risk that people can be falsely accused without due process.
Watson has also sued CP+B and MDC in a separate litigation in U.S. Federal District Court in Colorado, where he served at the agency’s Boulder office. Last week, the companies filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that Watson forfeit his rights to sue when he signed his employment contract, thereby agreeing to arbitrate the issues raised in his suit.
The companies stood by their position that the agency’s investigation into the matter should remain confidential.
I hope the judge in that case disagrees. At the very least, CP+B should be compelled to disclose its findings — naming names — to the judge if not to the general public. Only then can the court decide whether the agency acted after conducting a modicum of due process.