W+K Issues Statement on ‘Harassment or Inappropriate Conduct’ as London CSO Exits

By Patrick Coffee 

In case you missed it, Wieden + Kennedy parted with partner and chief strategy officer Paul Colman this week. All the major trade pubs ran related stories last night or this morning.

The statement that W+K PR released to confirm the news is a very significant part of this story. We should be very clear that the agency did not discuss the reasons for Colman’s firing—and neither did any individual sources who spoke to us on the record.

“W+K does not tolerate harassment of any kind. If harassment or inappropriate conduct is reported, a timely investigation is conducted, and if a violation is found to have occurred, appropriate corrective action is taken.


We also do not comment on internal matters.”

But what was that comment about, if not internal matters? Compare it to the statement that IPG released after Joe Alexander left:

“In this case, as soon as IPG was made aware of these allegations, we made sure that the right action was taken. We continue to look into the manner in which this situation was handled.”

And this one from AKQA regarding former creative lead Duan Evans last November:

“Duan Evans resigned with immediate effect during a disciplinary process and while he was suspended from the business.”

The one thing these releases have in common is that they are somehow both specific and vague. W+K’s is unique in that it does not reference the individual in question, though it was provided to media outlets as part of a larger comment regarding his departure.

WPP, on the other hand, allowed Gustavo Martinez to release his own direct denial when news of the Erin Johnson lawsuit first broke nearly two years ago:

“I am aware of the allegations made against me by a J. Walter Thompson employee in a suit filed in New York Federal Court. I want to assure our clients and my colleagues that there is absolutely no truth to these outlandish allegations, and I am confident that this will be proven in court.”

The casual observer might conclude that agencies have grown a bit more cautious in the ways they respond to potentially controversial staffing stories. They have also become more direct in describing the policies they follow when addressing alleged HR complaints.