Thursday, November 1, 2007

Some more thoughts on Biegel vs. Dentsu

Had to spend most of yesterday concerned with working for people who pay me, so only now have I gotten to read and digest the complaint in Biegel vs. Dentsu, not to mention posting of the now-infamous crotch shot. Of course, none of us, except for the plaintiff Steve Biegel and the defendant, Toyo Shigeta, were there in every instance, but here are a few things I keep coming back to: why would someone file a suit of this salacious magnitude unless he--and his lawyer--felt they had a very strong case? Particularly a man suing for sexual harassment, a situation pretty much guaranteed to garner a lot of headlines? Another thing it's hard to escape: having now read the complaint from cover-to-cover, is the level of detail, which no doubt fed into why Biegel feels he has a strong case. One thing you learn after reporting a lot of stories: talk is cheap, but details are, well, priceless. Yes, there are two sides to every story, but the side with the most detail generally is the most accurate. Even if the photographer behind (beneath?) the Sharapova crotch shot is hard to prove, there also seem to be, by Biegel's account, a lot of witnesses: Ron Rosen, Neal Gomberg, Scott Weitz, Doug Fidoten. Dentsu is saying that Biegel, and partner Ron Rosen, were let go in the aftermath of the hiring of Tim Andree, as part of a typical purge following the appointment of new management. Maybe that will make it harder to prove there was wrongful termination since that so often happens, but Biegel also outlines how Shigeta shunned him and threatened him when he told Shigeta that he almost complained to human resources about Shigeta's behavior. Shigeta, the suit says, tells Biegel, "If [Biegel] ever did register such a complaint with human resources, defendant Shigeta would see to it that he would be fired." After that, the suit says, Shigeta ignored him. The timing of all this, of course, couldn't be worse for Dentsu. Having been so secretive in the U.S. for so many years, the agency seemed to be holding a coming-out party of sorts recently, with a cover story in Adweek, and, then, last week, with the purchase of the well-regarded Attik. Now, with this suit charging sexual harassment with cultural differences being used as a cover, the mysteries of Dentsu only deepen.

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