Ad Giant Accused of Soaking Taxpayers in Anti-Drug Campaign


Federal prosecutors in New York allege that the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide padded bills for its $684 million in-your-face anti-drug campaign that linked narcotics use to car crashes, teen pregnancy and — during the 2002 Super Bowl — international terrorism.

A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged finance director Thomas Early and former senior partner Shona Seifert with conspiracy and filing false claims, saying they submitted inflated bills to the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1999 and 2000.

The New York-based advertising agency already has repaid $1.8 million to the government to settle a civil suit based on the same billing issues. The agency continues to produce anti-drug spots for the government.

According to the Washington Post, Ogilvy & Mather won a five-year contract in 1998 to do the spots, and executives projected $684 million income based on anticipated labor and overhead costs.

But in 1999 Ogilvy executives found employees were logging fewer hours than expected on the anti-drug campaign, the 14-page indictment said. Seifert allegedly ordered 16 subordinates to change past timecards to increase the hours that could be billed to the federal government, and she and Early told employees that, in the future, they should report that they had worked a specific percentage of their time on the ad campaign, whether or not they had, the indictment said.


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