Ex-Weber Shandwick CFO Frank Okunak sentenced to four years in prison

Okunak previously pled guilty to one count each of wire fraud and falsification of corporate books and records.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

NEW YORK: Former Weber Shandwick CFO and COO Frank Okunak has been sentenced to 52 months in prison, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said on Tuesday. 

In addition to his prison sentence, Okunak was sentenced to three years of supervised release. 

Okunak pled guilty on July 27 to one count each of wire fraud and falsification of books and records of a public corporation, in connection to his embezzlement of more than $16 million from Weber Shandwick over a period of a decade, according to court documents. As part of his guilty plea, Okunak agreed to forfeit more than $10.8 million and pay restitution of $16 million. 

“Frank Okunak conducted a nearly decade-long conspiracy to embezzle millions of dollars from his employer and the public shareholders of his employer,” Williams said in a statement. “Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to executives that if they use their company’s money as if it were their own, they will face lengthy prison time.”  

Okunak used the embezzled funds from Weber Shandwick, and ultimately parent company Interpublic Group, to finance his personal lifestyle and private business ventures, according to a statement from the Justice Department (DOJ). 

From 2011 to 2020, Okunak used his authority to cause Weber Shandwick to make unauthorized payments for his personal and business ventures, unrelated to the firm or IPG’s activities, including sports tickets and donations to his alma mater, according to the DOJ. 

To hide the aforementioned expenditures, Okunak prepared or caused others to prepare false or misleading invoices and other documentation to suggest the funds were used for legitimate agency business. 

Okunak left Weber Shandwick in 2020

“We are satisfied that this matter has been resolved,” IPG SVP of global communications Tom Cunningham told PRWeek via email.

A Weber Shandwick representative declined to comment. Okunak’s lawyer could not be immediately reached to comment on his client’s sentencing. 

Williams praised the FBI for its efforts and thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Weber Shandwick and IPG for their cooperation and assistance throughout the investigation. 

The embezzling scheme took place during the tenure of three Weber CEOs. Harris Diamond left the firm to lead creative network McCann in late 2012 and was succeeded by Andy Polansky, who led Weber until his promotion to CEO of IPG’s Constituency Management Groupnow known as Dxtra, in 2019. Polansky was replaced by Gail Heimann

Diamond retired from McCann at the end of 2020, and Polansky stepped down as Dxtra’s CEO in June 2022. 

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