Wooden to Testify in ONDCP Trial

NEW YORK Ruth Wooden, former president of the Ad Council and a former evp and senior counselor at public relations shop Porter Novelli, will testify for the defense in the trial of two former Ogilvy & Mather executives accused of inflating the federal government’s ad bills.

The co-defendants, former executive group director Shona Seifert and former finance director Thomas Early, have both pled not guilty to organizing a scheme to overbill the government via fraudulent timesheets in order to make up a $3 million revenue shortfall on the $1 billion Office of National Drug Control Policy account.

Lawyers for Seifert and Early presented their list of witnesses last Thursday, and prosecutors immediately objected to three of them. Those disputed witnesses were identified in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan for the first time today.

In response to the prosecutors’ objections, Judge Richard Berman ruled that Wooden, who is currently president of Public Agenda, a policy research think tank, can be called to testify as an expert on standard practices in advertising and PR, especially in the field of the special demands of federal government clients.

Seifert’s lawyer, Greg Craig, added a cryptic addendum to the ruling, however, when he rose to remind Berman that in an earlier telephone conference the judge had told the defense to urge Wooden to seek legal advice before taking the stand “to make sure she does not put herself in jeopardy.”

Craig reassured Berman that Wooden had discussed the matter with her attorney. The nature of the potential “jeopardy” was not described. Craig declined to elaborate.

Berman also allowed testimony from Jimmy Jackson, described as an expert on government contracting.

Berman struck down the defense’s proposal to hear expert testimony from Michael Lotito, who is currently the CEO of Media IQ, a media auditing firm.

Lotito’s clients have included IBM and American Express, which are both also clients of Ogilvy. Lotito was perhaps best known as the former COO of Initiative Media North America until 2001.

“There does not appear to be any basis for including studies of his,” Berman said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate.” Berman, did not elaborate on what “studies” the defense had proposed Lotito talk about.