German PR group clears FleishmanHillard in Monsanto lists case

French authorities have yet to announce a decision on the matter.

NEW YORK: The top FleishmanHillard executive in Germany said he is "pleased" a PR professional body in the country cleared the agency of wrongdoing in connection to its work on behalf of Bayer subsidiary Monsanto. 

"From the beginning, we have reiterated that we work according to the highest professional standards," said Hanning Kempe, MD of Fleishman’s operations in Germany, in an emailed statement. "This includes gathering information from publicly available sources to help our clients engage in dialogue relevant to their business and societal objectives. Our work is consistent with applicable professional and ethical standards and established industry practices." 

The council began examining the Omnicom Group agency’s activities after the newspaper Le Monde reported that French prosecutors were investigating lists compiled to defend Roundup, which was developed by Monsanto before Bayer acquired the company. The lists reportedly included names of journalists, politicians and agricultural and nonprofit leaders categorized by their position on Monsanto. French law governs the creation of lists and databases of people based on their political views. Roundup has been the subject of lawsuits filed by individuals who said the weed-killer has been linked to cancer. 

The council wrote that its investigation found "there is no misconduct with regard to valid codes or guidelines" in a statement about the decision issued last month.

"FleishmanHillard opened the German lists to us, and two members of the council were allowed to have an extensive look at the lists [along with] an independent law firm," said Lars Rademacher, chair of the council. "[They] could not find anything unusual. These were just [the] usual stakeholder information that could be found anywhere on the net."

The council added that it hired a neutral law firm to examine Fleishman’s lists. The firm found that they contained "essential organizational and planning relevant information" and that the data came from "publicly available sources." The group also said the lists are "standard tools" used in the business. 

A Bayer spokesperson declined to comment on the decision. Shortly after the LeMonde story broke, Bayer said it was halting work with Fleishman and beginning its own investigation.

Omnicom’s PR revenues dipped 1.3% organically in Q2 to $349.3 million. PR performance was mixed globally, holding company executives said on the quarterly earnings call. Fleishman’s revenue grew 5% last year to $606.9 million, according to PRWeek’s Agency Business Report.

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