Ad Agency CEO Resigns

Martinez at JWTIn the midst of a discrimination lawsuit and evidence of sexist and racist behavior, the CEO of J. Walter Thompson has resigned. Founded in 1864, J. Walter Thompson is the fourth-largest agency in the world and was acquired in 2015 by WPP. 

In a highly publicized case, Erin Johnson, JWT's chief communications officer, accused CEO Gustavo Martinez of an "unending stream of racist and sexist comments as well as unwanted touching and other unlawful conduct." 

Alleged comments made by Martinez are shocking, so I won't quote them here, but you can read them for yourself if you're interested. 

WPP responded with a statement from Martinez: 

"I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court. I 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 has a video of a May 2015 company meeting apparently showing Martinez making offensive comments, but his lawyers are trying to prevent this as evidence for the case, claiming it contains "highly confidential and proprietary" information.  

Image source.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What else, if anything, should parent company WPP say at this time? 
  • A lawsuit is usually an employee's last resort. How can employees subjected to discriminatory or harassing remarks address them internally? What is a company's responsibility in such situations?