Seifert in Memo Vowed to ‘Wring the Money Out of’ ONDCP

NEW YORK Shona Seifert took the stand in her defense for a second day here in U.S. District Court and said she was embarrassed about a memo to colleagues in which she wrote: “I’ll wring the money out of them. I promise,” a reference to the Office of National Drug Control Policy account.

Seifert said the line in the memo referred to $900,000 in unpaid labor costs owed to WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather on the ONDCP business, which she oversaw at the agency.

Former Ogilvy executives Seifert and Thomas Early stand accused of plotting to overbill the government to cover a $3 million revenue shortfall on the $1 billion anti-drug account. Both have pled not guilty.

Seifert remained calm under questioning by a prosecutor who suggested that her story “evolved” over the past fours years in interviews with investigators from the FBI, the General Accountability Office and the advertising agency’s lawyers.

Prosecutors also asked Seifert if a $15.7 million figure cited in various internal memos referred to Ogilvy’s projected income from the account. Seifert repeatedly stated that the figure referred to the client’s budget and not the agency’s projections.

Seifert also disputed testimony from former colleagues that she directed them to alter their timesheets in any fraudulent manner, and said she was never aware of any employee being asked by anyone to alter timesheets to reflect work on the account that they had not performed.

The jury’s attention seemed to wane during a lengthy back-and-forth between Seifert and the prosecutor about whether the color of ink, white-outs and scratch-outs on timesheets reflected billing inaccuracies.

Jurors perked up, however, when the government introduced a string of agency e-mails into evidence that it said suggested Ogilvy’s former contract manager, Al DiOrio, was considered an outsider by his colleagues and that his physical size was the butt of jokes, a suggestion Seifert vehemently denied.

In reply to a November 1999 e-mail from Early, Seifert asked the former Ogilvy finance director to make sure DiOrio was included in the correspondence. When Early replied that DiOrio was already on the e-mail string, Seifert responded, “Oops. I guess that he’s the same size as everyone else in e-mail.”

The prosecution asked Seifert if she had been making fun of DiOrio being overweight.

“I didn’t make jokes about Mr. DiOrio’s size. That’s horrible,” Seifert testified.

When asked if another memo in which she stated she would “wring the money” out of the ONDCP was more embarrassing to her than making fun of DiOrio, Seifert shot back, “I have never made fun of Mr. DiOrio.”

“Did you like him?” the prosecutor asked.

“He’s deceased,” Seifert replied.

“Did you like him?” she was asked again.

“Yes,” she said.

Testimony continues this afternoon.