In a busy week for news, two stories stood out over the last seven days – Chevron's firing of Ogilvy over a perceived conflict issue and Weber Shandwick and Hill+Knowlton Strategies' settling out of court of its dispute over client and employee poaching.
We covered the former in depth last week, so let's zero in on the Weber/H+K issue. In essence, Weber accused H+K COO Ken Luce and EVP Jodi Venturoni, both former Weber employees, of stealing confidential information, clients, and employees from their former employer.
It is, of course, no surprise that the dispute has been settled out of court. WPP-owned H+K certainly wouldn't have wanted any more of its dirty laundry airing in a very public forum, no matter what its opinion was on its chances of winning the case. And both sides will have already invested chunks of money in lawyers' fees.
Equally unsurprising is that both sides are claiming “victory” in the matter.
H+K implies it was able to demonstrate early on that the issues raised by the case were easily resolved, that the documents Venturoni brought over with her were only shared with three employees – all former Weber staff, not senior management – and that they were templated documents.
The folks at Weber will highlight the extremely embarrassing climb-down statements Venturoni and Luce had to make in the release that accompanied, and was part of, the settlement. They will also point out that WPP boss Martin Sorrell is not exactly backwards in coming forwards when defending or pursuing legal battles on such matters – so the fact that his H+K firm settled is significant in that context.
The suggestion from H+K is probably that Weber was making a mountain out of a molehill and pursuing a personal vendetta driven by the IPG firm's combative, Brooklyn-born CEO Harris Diamond and by a fear of losing more revenue and talent.
In conjunction with the embarrassing statements Venturoni and Luce were forced to make in the settlement release, and the further non-compete and possible cash compensation clauses that haven't been disclosed but are thought to be part of the deal, the “Brooklyn bruiser” will probably feel the process was worth undertaking in the end, no matter how unedifying – though undoubtedly entertaining – it was to the outside observer.
Calling the settlement a “victory” is probably pushing it, but I guess the bottom line is you are most unlikely to see any more Weber Shandwick employees taking the well-trodden path to Hill+Knowlton any time soon.