In the email, the unnamed freelancer expressed willingness to write a profile about a client of the agency in exchange for payment to "fund" their time.
A fee of £300 was proposed in exchange for 10 hours of work because the freelancer said that as a Forbes contributor they were paid "a very small sum".
The agency declined the proposal.
Le sigh... Perfectly targeted pitch gets this response. The state of it all, eh? pic.twitter.com/1V4l1uuvL6— Rich Leigh (@RichLeighPR) March 16, 2016
In a statement, Forbes said it was taking the matter very seriously and had launched an investigation.
"Under the terms and conditions of the contributor contract that Forbes has with each of its contributors, no contributor should be requesting or receiving funds from third parties to write on specific subjects," the firm said.
Forbes introduced its pay-per-click model in 2010, paying contributors based on the traffic generated by their articles and the number of return visitors.
The situation does raise interesting questions about the ethical implications of this type of business model. With Forbes confirming that the majority of contributors earn approximately $10,000 a year, many are under pressure to continuously generate content and secure other streams of income to make a living.
Rich Leigh, founder of the agency, who published the email, confirmed he had no intention of naming and shaming the freelancer involved, stating they might simply be "trying to make a living in a tough time". But he said he hoped the industry took notice as other firms may have accepted this proposal.
"I don’t agree with the notion of paying for objective journalism on behalf of clients. I hope trusted and otherwise supposedly unbiased titles will always count a story’s editorial worth as more important than the depth of the source’s pockets," he told PRWeek.