Fleishman issues new ethics standards following LA controversy

ST LOUIS, MO: Fleishman-Hillard is eliminating corporate contributions to political candidates or ballot issues, and is creating a hotline for anyone employed by or associated with the firm to anonymously report "questionable or unethical behavior."

ST LOUIS, MO: Fleishman-Hillard is eliminating corporate contributions to political candidates or ballot issues, and is creating a hotline for anyone employed by or associated with the firm to anonymously report "questionable or unethical behavior."

The firm has also changed its exit-interview policy, and has implemented a new time-entry and billing-certification process.

These moves, and an "enhanced ethics program" have been implemented in response to allegations that the firm's Los Angeles office had engaged in over billing, as well as investigations into so-called "pay for play" activities, where political contributions are alleged to have brought more city business to the firm.

"This is a reiteration of what we've done in the past, some new and some refined," Richard Kline, regional president and GM of the Los Angeles office, said in regard to the policy announcement. "Fleishman has for years been a leader in quality service, ethics and moral values. We want to make absolutely clear our recommitment to that position."

The Los Angeles office was previously headed up by Doug Dowie, who is now on paid administrative leave.

The changes were laid out in a memo from CEO John Graham e-mailed to employees on Thursday and obtained by PRWeek.

Graham wrote that the firm has retained an independent ethics expert to "assess the ethical commitment of the firm."

That expert, who the firm did not name because he is traveling, is on the faculty of a major US university and has already completed the first phase of the review, the memo said. The assessment will result in "case-based" ethics training for all staff.

Employees intending to solicit political donations from their colleagues on Fleishman's time or premises are required to seek approval from the agency. The firm will continue to have a political action committee.

Every call to the 24-hour hotline will result in notification to Graham, chief talent officer Agnes Gioconda, and the regional president.

Exit interviews are now to be conducted by talent-development liaisons in St Louis.

Time-sheet procedures now require that with each time entry, staff members must certify "that they have reviewed and understand the firm's time entry policy, and that the time being entered is an accurate amount of time worked," the memo said.

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