RAPP Responds to Lawsuit Filed Against CEO, Calls Discrimination Claims ‘Outrageous’

By Patrick Coffee 

Omnicom’s RAPP has responded to the lawsuit filed by former U.S. president Greg Andersen in May alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination on the part of global CEO Alexei Orlov.

The filing claims that Orlov’s decision to fire Andersen in April was justified and states that the defendants “deny generally and specifically each and every allegation” in the original suit.

In a document filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 16th which first came to our attention today, the law firm of Latham & Watkins lays out some very general arguments for Andersen’s termination being “lawful and appropriate,” stating that he “failed to perform basic duties during his short tenure”:

Among other issues, Mr. Andersen repeatedly failed to engage with RAPP clients, was unresponsive to senior RAPP executives and others, and was often absent from the office and key RAPP events. Mr. Andersen was disengaged from the business of RAPP–so much so that, after repeated warnings, Mr. Andersen was designated to be terminated before he participated in the alleged workplace complaints described in his Complaint, fully undermining his retaliation claim.

The doc then implies that Andersen proved the irrelevance of his own job by “contributing so little” during the approximately nine months he served as U.S. president that the agency does not plan to hire a replacement.

While the response does classify Andersen’s claims regarding Orlov as “outrageous allegations” and “gross mischaracterizations,” it does not address them individually, instead claiming that “they are an attempt by Mr. Andersen to mask the actual and legitimate reasons why he was terminated.”

Those allegations include, among other things, the claim that Orlov referred to various women as “fat cows,” called a Jewish employee “miserly,” pressured someone working on the Pfizer account to get him Viagra without a prescription, declined to promote a female executive because she is “too pretty,” and once told a meeting of approximately 70 in Dallas that he would “break off your finger and shove it up your ass” if any of the individuals in question were to “mess with my brand or my direction.”

Several top executives in the U.S. and London have left the RAPP organization since the suit was initially filed, including chief creative officer Frank Iqbal and SVP/head of business leadership Kamini Lane. Multiple sources have claimed that Lane is the executive whom Orlov declined to promote when Andersen suggested her.

Last week, Campaign reported that it had been contacted by “a number of former RAPP London staffers” who spoke of “bullying and abusive emails” presumably sent by Orlov. Specifically, former VP of business development Alison Clark claimed that RAPP meetings were “like being in Henry VIII’s court” with Orlov playing the role of the infamous monarch.

Earlier this month, a source also told us that Orlov had been forced to resign as executive vice chairman of Wunderman in 2008 after an internal investigation verified complaints of offensive behavior made against him by at least one employee. WPP, Wunderman and RAPP all declined to comment on that story.

Orlov himself has yet to publicly addres the lawsuit.