J Walter Thompson announced that they reached a settlement in the lawsuit filed against them by former chief communications officer Erin Johnson over two years ago.
The Wall Street Journal first announced this news, a culmination of a sexual harrasment claimed filed against holding company WPP, JWT, and former global chief Gustavo Martinez. News of Martinez making racist, anti-Semitic comments and ‘rape jokes’ first were reported in the New York Post in 2016, to which Martinez denied allegations.
Martinez had initially responded to allegations: “I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court,” in a statement, and “want to assure our clients and my colleagues that there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations and I am confident that this will be proven in court.”
Johnson had taken leave for about eight months, later returning to the agency as the suit dragged forward, while Martinez, after being forced to resign from his post, was rehired by WPP as a country lead for Spain. As of this writing, Martinez still has ‘Country Representative, WPP Spain’ as part of his LinkedIn profile, even as Adweek has reported his title being managerial, based off of local press in the country.
The Drum has reached out for comment on the Martinez's standing with the holding company.
The final result, as released in a statement by the agency said: “J. Walter Thompson Company today announced they have reached an amicable settlement agreement with Erin Johnson, Chief Communications Officer, J. Walter Thompson Company, in the Johnson vs. JWT et al. lawsuit."
It continued: “The terms of the agreement are confidential and will not be disclosed,” also confirming that Johnson has resigned from her role of chief communications officer.
Johnson herself released a personal statement, as reported by WSJ. “The past few years have been challenging to say the least, and I am grateful for the love and encouragement from family, friends and those of you in the industry who spoke up and offered support.” She added, “I hope that my personal experience will encourage others to speak up and follow their convictions.”
In between the bookends of the allegations and lawsuit, both Madison Avenue and Hollywood have gone through scandals that have rocked business as usual. Since Harvey Weinstein’s actions culminated in groups of women launching the #MeToo and Times Up movements, the ad industry has seen itself come under fire, due to the hasty departure of Joe Alexander last December and the uprising of whisper networks and coalitions to call out reported agency sexual offenders and build solutions.
Meanwhile, for WPP, the settlement comes on the heels of findings that at the London-based agency network has been conducting an investigation into Sir Martin Sorrell. The holding company has already had to react to the consolidation of PR firms Burson-Marsteller and Cohn and Wolfe, and five of its branding consultancies into Superunion, as well as the challenges to industry status quo by in-house agencies and business consultants Accenture and Deloitte.
Now, as first reported by WSJ, allegations of a misuse of company assets, as well as an internal investigation into an "allegation of personal misconduct” have hit the company, causing the industry to start wondering who would replace the man almost synonymous with WPP.