The DoJ Clears All Major Holding Companies in Production Investigation

WPP, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and MDC Partners received subpoenas

The news appears to mark the end of a two-year case.
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All five agency holding companies subpoenaed by the Department of Justice as part of an investigation into video production and postproduction practices that began in 2016 now claim to have received information confirming that they have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

This would appear to mark the conclusion of a case that stretched over nearly two years and threatened the validity one of the most lucrative parts of the ad business.

A representative for the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs declined to comment.

AdAge first reported the news regarding four of the companies this afternoon. Since the publication of that story, WPP also said the DoJ confirmed the conclusion of its case.

Subsidiaries of WPP, IPG, Omnicom, Publicis and MDC Partners received subpoenas in 2016 and 2017 as part of an investigation into allegations of “bid rigging,” or manipulation of contracts to drive lucrative production work to their own in-house divisions. These practices, if confirmed, would have violated laws requiring fair bids between competing parties.

“WPP has received confirmation that the DoJ investigation has closed without any action taken against the company, subsidiaries or employees,” wrote a company spokesperson.

A Publicis representative said, “The Department of Justice’s investigation involving one of our subsidiaries closed without any actions being taken. Publicis Groupe remains committed to transparency and to continue partnership with its clients with excellence and integrity.”

Omnicom and MDC Partners (which does not classify itself as a holding group) both issued related SEC filings this morning in order to share the news with investors. The former confirmed that two of its unnamed subsidiaries had received subpoenas in December 2016, when the Wall Street Journal broke news of the investigation.

“The Company received confirmation from the Division that its investigation of the Company’s subsidiaries has been closed without any action taken against the Company, its subsidiaries or employees,” the filing read.

MDC, in a similar document, claimed that its counsel received a letter from the DoJ on Monday, bearing the date of Nov. 5, which stated that “the foregoing investigation has been closed.” All related documents were reportedly returned to the company.

“The DOJ did not bring any charges against the Company or its subsidiary,” the filing continued.

Spokespeople for Omnicom and MDC declined to elaborate beyond the text of their respective filings.

IPG’s head of corporate communications told Adweek that he could confirm the DoJ had informed the company that the investigation has been closed. Soon afterward, another 8-K filing went live on IPG’s behalf.

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