PR's 10 biggest scandals of 2015

It was sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll in the PR world in 2015. Well, actually it's only drugs that feature in this list of the 10 biggest industry scandals of the year, unless you count gender discrimination as sex...

Toyota comms boss resigns after drugs arrest

At the start of July, the former Toyota Motor global managing officer and chief comms officer walked free from a Tokyo prison where she had been held for 20 days on suspicion of drugs offences. Julie Hamp had earlier resigned from the role from behind bars, despite the company having initially defended her after her arrest on 18 June for importing the painkiller oxycodone. She is yet to update her LinkedIn profile.

PRCA kicks out Fuel PR over 'Sweaty-gate'

In October, Fuel PR was expelled from membership of the PRCA - the first time the trade association had meted out such punishment in a decade.

This followed a ‘real life’ feature the agency supplied to the Press Association, in which 'Esme de Silva' described how a product named Odaban had solved her debilitating sweating problems. Unbeknownst to PA, de Silva was in fact Leandra Cardozo, an employee of Fuel. And it turned out that Odaban was a Fuel client.

The PRCA later concluded that Fuel PR was in breach of its professional standards and that the gravity of the reputational damage to the industry was so great that "termination of membership was the only option". The agency remained unrepentant.

MSLGroup settles US gender bias suit

In a gender discrimination lawsuit that had been running since 2011, in October MSLGroup and parent company Publicis Groupe reached a proposed settlement with plaintiffs valued at nearly $2.9m (£1.9m). The firm said it was "confident that our workplace policies and practices are lawful, correct and non-discriminatory". Of course, it is not the only PR firm that has had questions asked about gender equality...

The gender pay gap

The headline says it all. PRWeek will continue to focus its attentions on this anachronism in 2016.

One horse race for CIPR presidency

In late October, the panel appointed to review the CIPR's presidential election – which was won by Liquid's Jason MacKenzie after the only other candidate was disqualified – recommended that the organisation's CEO was not given the role of mediating election disputes in future. The disrupted election process left some members disgruntled and seeking the reopening of nominations.

Pushy Crick irks Prince Charles’ PR

Just a storm in a (very expensive china) teacup? In May, a physical scuffle between Channel 4's political correspondent Michael Crick and royal comms secretary Kristina Kyriacou attracted widespread media attention, but a source at Clarence House told PRWeek that coverage was "grossly exaggerated".

Expensive investigation for Nadal

Miles Nadal stepped down as the boss of marcoms holding company MDC Partners in July amid a US Securities and Exchange Commission probe into his travel, medical and other expenses. It was later revealed that he owed the firm a total of more than $20m (£13m).

Licence to argue

The launch of the Newspaper Licensing Authority’s new licensing structure for PR firms gave rise to heated criticism by the PRCA of both the NLA itself, and the CIPR. PRCA chief Francis Ingham frequently refers to the NLA as a "parasite" and has said it is "tragic" that the CIPR has allowed itself to be "used" by the copyright body. The CIPR has argued that the PRCA has misportrayed the nature of the CIPR-NLA relationship, and said that refusing to engage is not an option.

School's out for PLMR

In February, the agency PLMR pulled out of the bid to represent south London’s Durand Academy. The agency blamed "mischievous suggestions" about the transparency of the bid process – it had been representing the school on a free basis since being told in 2014 it could no longer be paid to represent the academy as PLMR chief executive, Kevin Craig, sat on the Durand board of governors.

BrewDog barking up the wrong tree

Not so much a scandal as bit of delicious irony. A book released by the co-founder of shy and retiring brewer BrewDog in November claimed that brands don’t need to have a marketing or PR budget to build profile. PRs pointed out that the brand itself has a PR firm, with another agency having been hired to promote the book. Cheers!

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