NEW YORK: Khaled Juffali Company has hired RooneyPartners to "help set the record straight" on the investment firm’s role in the unfolding legal drama surrounding former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, the firm said in a statement on Tuesday.
Ghosn made his first public appearance in nearly two months on Thursday, telling a Japanese court that he has been wrongly accused of financial misconduct. Authorities in the country arrested Ghosn for a third time last month after new allegations that he misused Nissan funds.
An investigation is focused on $14.7 million in payments that Ghosn made to Khaled Al-Juffali, owner of the investment firm that bears his name, to "help him out of financial difficulties," according to Reuters.
RooneyPartners disputed those charges, saying the amount was "for legitimate business purposes in order to support and promote Nissan’s business strategy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and included reimbursement for business expenses."
Its client, Khaled Juffali Company, resolved a dealership dispute between Alhamrani Motor, Saudi Arabia, and Nissan that was affecting the automaker’s Middle Easteren sales. Juffali is a prominent businessman in Saudi Arabia.
Khaled Juffali Company also helped to secure approval and funding for a Nissan manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia.
Hired in December, RooneyPartners founder and CEO Terry Rooney said his agency is working closely with Khaled Juffali Company and consultants on the issue.
"The return on investment Nissan achieved from KJC was substantial and ongoing," Rooney said. "We’re puzzled by what exactly the issue is that Nissan is complaining about. They got a great deal and should be more than happy."
Established in 2003, RooneyPartners has a 15-person team that serves corporate clients in three main areas: media relations, social and digital, and content strategy. The PR firm has a partnership with London-based Hudson Sandler. Clients include asset management firm T. Rowe Price, biopharmaceutical company Kindred Biosciences, and agribusiness Syngenta.
Since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last September, PR firms’ ties to the Saudi government have come under scrutiny. The controversy did not stop RooneyPartners from taking the business, Rooney said.
"After we went under an NDA, we got our hands around the fact pattern," he said. "It became apparent to us that [Ghosn] was being victimized, and I like to represent underdogs. I’ve made a living representing underdogs."