GroupM Files Complaint Against Ebiquity As Second ANA Report Looms

groupm-ebiquityThe fallout from the Association of National Advertisers’ report on media agency transparency has taken an unexpected twist.

WPP’s media buying unit, GroupM, is suing Ebiquity’s media auditing arm, FirmDecisions, claiming it violated an NDA and misused classified information that GroupM accidentally sent to FirmDecisions. Campaign first reported the story.

According to the complaint, GroupM erroneously sent “four or five” confidential documents to FirmDecisions:

“Despite a request for return of the Confidential Documents, FirmDecisions has failed or refused to return, or suitably account for, the Confidential Documents … and has failed or refused to provide any information about how the Confidential Documents came into its possession.”

GroupM isn’t fully buying FirmDecisions’ claim that it has deleted those documents, and is inferring in its complaint that because the documents haven’t been returned, they either have been or could be “disclosed to third parties, in breach of … the NDA.”

The agency group is especially wary of a FirmDecisions senior employee who claimed it was “best to keep [the confidential documents] up our sleeve to use when needed.”

FirmDecisions claims that it told each GroupM agency in every instance where confidential information was sent in error and proceeded to delete or return the documentation immediately.

The lawsuit comes just as Ebiquity is slated to follow up after the July Fourth holiday on the ANA transparency report, released earlier this month, with a set of guidelines for marketers on how to ensure transparent relationships with their agencies.

According to the ANA, GroupM’s lawsuit and Ebiquity’s pending report are unrelated. GroupM declined to comment.

The suit was filed on May 31 in the High Court of London. Four GroupM agencies (MediaCom, Maxus, Mindshare and MEC) are involved in the suit, as they have a more granular view on exactly which documents were sent to FirmDecisions, and GroupM says it will seek damages dependent on case findings.

FirmDecisions filed defense on Tuesday denying wrongdoing.

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