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Dentsu Seeks Lawsuit Dismissal

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NEW YORK Dentsu America filed a motion in a New York federal court yesterday to dismiss the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed by former group creative director Steve Biegel.

The agency denied all of Biegel's lurid claims, saying if he believed they were valid they should have been made while Biegel was a Dentsu employee or that he should have filed the suit a year ago when he was fired. Instead, Dentsu argued in its motion, Biegel prepared a draft of his lawsuit and showed it to two of the agency's biggest clients while he and his attorney attempted to secure a $1 million payout from Dentsu.

In his Oct. 31 lawsuit, Biegel said he was fired because he complained about sexual harassment. Dentsu's top North American exec, Toyo Shigeta, was named in Biegel's complaint. In court papers, Biegel claimed he was forced to visit a Prague brothel and a Japanese bathhouse and had to watch Shigeta photographing women on a Brazilian beach during agency business trips. Biegel also claimed Shigeta showed him a "crotch shot" of a fully-clothed Maria Sharapova, allegedly taken by Shigeta, without the tennis star's knowledge, while she was on a photo shoot for Dentsu client Canon.

"In addition to being patently false, Mr. Biegel's allegations have no legal standing," said Dentsu representative Steve Ellwanger. "Only the photograph of Maria Sharapova occurred within the three-year statute of limitations for such allegations. First, Mr. Shigeta did not take the photograph. Second, under no circumstances would such a photo meet the legal definition of constituting workplace sexual harassment."

Biegel's attorney Andrew Dwyer could not be reached for comment. Dentsu CEO Tim Andree declined comment. Along with Shigeta, Andree—who fired Biegel in November 2006—is named in the lawsuit.

Biegel also alleged he was fired because he is Jewish. Ellwanger described that claim as a "nonstarter," saying Biegel has not provided "one shred of proof that his faith had anything to do with his firing."

Biegel had amended his original lawsuit, claiming that Dentsu executives defamed him in public comments after he filed his complaint in October.

Ellwanger said, "Dentsu has done no such thing," adding that Biegel "hasn't even specified when or how he was defamed."