'Masters of Disaster' aid Simon in McDonald's FBI investigation

LOS ANGELES: Simon Worldwide has hired the "Masters of Disaster,"

Mark Lehane and Chris Fabiani, to handle the fallout following the

arrest of one of its employees for fraud involving various McDonald's

games.



"Our firm provides strategic communications counsel, and we've been

retained to assist and support Simon it its efforts going forward,"

Chris Lehane told PRWeek. KCSA handles IR for the company.



Meanwhile, the fast-food giant has been scrambling to limit the damage

caused by the scandal. On Tuesday, August 21, eight people were arrested

for allegedly defrauding the McDonald's Corporation by fixing its

Monopoly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire games. The FBI said that more

than $13 million had been illegally obtained by the

individuals.



According to the FBI, an employee from Simon Marketing embezzled the

winning game pieces and set people up to illegally claim the prizes. The

marketing and promotion agency is a subsidiary of Simon Worldwide, and

was hired in 1995 to ensure the distribution and security of McDonald's

games.



"(Simon) is a business that is going to cooperate fully and work with

investigators," Lehane said. "They want to get to the facts."



McDonald's fired Simon immediately following the news, causing the

agency's shares to fall 80% overnight.



McDonald's has launched its own massive PR campaign to combat the

negative impact of the story. The company said it was "shocked and

stunned" by the news, and in a press release thanked and congratulated

the FBI for the arrests.



Full-page ads were taken out in various newspapers with an open letter

to customers. "Your confidence has and always will be our highest

priority," it read.



A new contest was also announced, with a $10 million prize pool.

McDonald's put reprints of the text of its newspaper ad in its

restaurants, printed in both Spanish and English. The closing line of

the letter wishes customers "good luck" in the upcoming competition.



No one from McDonald's was available to comment.



Celador, the UK company that owns the rights to the TV program Who Wants

to be a Millionaire, is also inextricably linked to the scandal. The

code name for the FBI's investigative operation was "Final Answer."



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