NEW YORK The legal battle between Wal-Mart and its former svp, marketing communications Julie Roehm has heated up, with the retailer filing a counterclaim that purports to include the texts of steamy e-mails between Roehm and another former Wal-Mart executive, Sean Womack, her subordinate.
In court papers, Wal-Mart alleged Roehm and Womack violated Wal-Mart's strict ethics policies by entering into a romantic relationship and through their stewardship of a review for the company's advertising account.
"[Roehm and Womack] misused the agency review process and engaged in travel paid for by Wal-Mart and for the ostensible purpose of furthering Wal-Mart's business interest, but for the actual purpose of spending personal time with Womack," according to the claim.
Dismissed from her job late last year, Roehm had previously sued Wal-Mart  for wrongful firing.
Roehm Was 'Big Sister'
While Womack had referred to Roehm as the "big sister [he] never had," the company alleged their relationship became romantic in August 2006. The document cited a gathering of Wal-Mart colleagues at a bar in Fayetteville, Ark., as evidence.
"At one point, Womack and Roehm left the table together to go to another part of the bar," according to court papers. "Later, when Womack's friend was on his way to the restroom, he spotted Womack and Roehm in a corridor. Womack had Roehm 'pinned' against the wall in an intimate pose. Womack's friend paused awkwardly for several seconds, then announced his presence and walked past the two of them ... Womack later denied to his friend that anything inappropriate was going on."
In the counterclaim, Wal-Mart provided details of e-mail exchanges that it said depicted a romantic relationship between the two. Many of the e-mails came from a personal, "secret" account Womack set up that was later discovered by his wife, Shelley.
"My Gmail is secure ... write to me," the document quotes one message from Womack to Roehm. "Tell me something, anything ... I feel the need to be inside of your head if I cannot be near you."
According to the document, Roehm responded: "I miss you ridiculously ... I hate not being able to call you or write you. I think about us together all of the time. Little moments like watching your face when you kiss me. I loved your voicemail last night and love the idea of memory and kept thinking/wishing that it would have been you and I there last night. So, there's a little head action for you."
Womack later "admitted to a sexual relationship with Roehm" to his wife, but later recanted. "Nevertheless, the Womacks separated," according to the filing.
The document also cited an unidentified friend of Womack's at the company who claims Roehm admitted to an "emotional affair" with Womack, insisted no intercourse had ever taken place, though she allegedly admitted the two had "fooled around" a "couple of times."
Roehm and Womack were leading the agency review process last year that awarded the account to Interpublic Group's DraftFCB in October. By December, Wal-Mart dismissed the pair, and restarted the review, barring DraftFCB from participating. It has since awarded the creative account to the shop's IPG sibling, The Martin Agency.
Roehm, Womack Favored DraftFCB
In addition to the alleged affair, the company also asserted that Roehm and Womack had shown favoritism to DraftFCB during the review and had attempted to secure jobs at the agency. The document cited several e-mail exchanges between Womack, Roehm and then DraftFCB chief growth officer Tony Weisman as evidence.
In one such exchange, Womack broached the topic of a business opportunity with the agency that involved some amount of equity in a venture. "We're both interested in having a stake in our next gig," he wrote, according to the filing. "More importantly to you, in the two of us you have a team that can help lead your organization in a powerful way. But the opportunity will need to be broad enough."
In a separate e-mail exchange, Womack said he believed his personal e-mail address was "WM [Wal-Mart] safe. So we can have candid conversations," according to the claim.
The filing alleges Roehm was present at a meeting in which Womack approached DraftFCB CEO Howard Draft about employment at his agency. "Ultimately, Draft determined that he could not make an employment offer to Womack while Roehm and Womack were directing Wal-Mart's agency review," per court papers.
A DraftFCB representative had no comment on the litigation, but he noted that the agency had been cooperating "100 percent" with Wal-Mart's internal investigation. Weisman, who left DraftFCB in November to lead Publicis Groupe's Digitas office in Chicago, also had no comment.
A Wal-Mart representative would not comment on the counterclaim beyond a prepared statement: "When we fired Ms. Roehm, we had no intention of sharing the details of her flagrant personal and professional misconduct, even as she made disparaging the company a centerpiece of her self-promotional campaign. Now, we must respond to her lawsuit and are in a position where we have no choice but to share the real story of what happened."
Roehm did not immediately respond to phone calls and e-mails. Womack could not be reached.