LOS ANGELES: Government prosecutors turned their attention to a new batch of allegedly overbilled Fleishman accounts as the federal trial of former Fleishman-Hillard executives Doug Dowie and John Stodder entered its third week.
Ex-Fleishman SAE Jennifer Langan took the stand last Tuesday to answer questions about the Port of Los Angeles, a client served by the firm's Stodder-led public affairs division.
Prompted by a prosecution-supplied e-mail, Langan recalled that from September 2002 to spring 2003, Stodder on several occasions added handwritten notations to already-reviewed billing worksheets, boosting staff hours and purportedly "making up" complementary descriptions for work never done.
"Maybe [it] makes him feel better," read the e-mail, which Langan sent to a colleague in February 2003. Under cross-examination, however, Langan admitted she did "not know if those write-ups were illegitimate."
Hilary Norton, former public affairs VP and account manager, responded to queries about the Worldwide Church of God, another Stodder-era account allegedly fraudulently billed, and the LA Conventions and Visitors Bureau, an account held prior to Stodder's tenure.
Norton testified that under then-division head Steve Sugerman, she'd adjust staff hours, billing clients for "value of service" rather than actual time worked. This practice, she said, was introduced to her by Sugerman in 2001 as "value billing."
"It wasn't an easy concept for me to understand," she said.