Thursday, November 29

Parading Biegel: Creatively Naked

Lawsuits are odd things nowadays, sometimes serving as smear campaigns rather than the pursuit of justice for which they are intended. The case of Biegel vs. Denstu, as amended and made available by Ad Age, is one where it becomes very unclear which category it belongs.

Part of the reason is that the Biegel’s revisions further muddle events and allegations while placing even more aim on Toyo Shigeta, CEO of Dentsu Holdings USA as well as another senior executive at Dentsu. The new complaint even includes the web address of the now famous brothel (pictured) where it all went down.

Biegel’s revised complaint now reveals he wasn’t just motivated to stand up just because he was subjected to two years of repeated lewd and sexually harassing behavior, which included forcing him to engage prostitutes, view photographs of crotches, and get naked to “parade” in front of the accused at a Japanese bathhouse. No, Biegel was motivated because another employee was scheduled to take a business trip with Shigeta about two years later.

So Biegel confronted his employer on the presumption that this employee would also be subjected to the same humiliating and sexually degrading experience that Biegel had allegedly endured for years. This was also the time that Biegel chose to disclose that he ought to have reported the bathhouse incident (not necessarily the brothel incident) to human resources.

According to the suit, Shigeta’s attitude toward Biegel changed from positive to negative after that, with Shigeta virtually cutting off all communication between them. (Ya think?) And this is why Biegel now claims he was not only fired because of complaining about sexual harassment, but also because he is Jewish. Huh?

Is there a connection here or is this something out of pulp fiction? In any case, religious discrimination and defamation are added to the case. The latter is presumably because Dentsu denied the charges, which made Biegel look bad. Ho hum.

Meanwhile, Dentsu is standing firm in insisting that the allegations are patently false, and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Biegel, they say, ignored formal procedures for making grievances about sexual harassment by lodging claims more than a year after the alleged incidents took place.

Applying Ethics Against Harassment

While I can make no assumptions that any of this occurred or did not occur, I can share what might have occurred had Biegel applied ethics.

• Biegel could have warned Shigeta that he was offended immediately upon being taken to a brothel and took action to leave the brothel, especially after receiving “orders” to participate with prostitutes.

• Upon further insistence or threat, Biegel could have immediately told Shigeta that he would be reporting the incident to human resources.

• Upon further insistence or threat or inaction by human resources, Biegel could have filed a lawsuit.

Had any of this happened, there would have likely been no other occurrences either because Shigeta would have either understood the point or may have been terminated. But then again, there wouldn’t be $1 million lawsuit several years after the fact either.

As I wrote in post yesterday, fearlessness can serve people in business — being “forced” to parade naked in front of your boss would certainly qualify as the time to apply it.



Rich on 12/3/07, 6:26 PM said...


"NEW YORK Dentsu America filed a motion in a New York federal court last week 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 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." — Adweek

Observation: In terms of online branding, Biegel has all but buried his brand under the weight of the lawsuit stories as a result of the filing.

Anonymous said...

OBSERVATION: This guy's lawsuit is centered on retaliation for complaining about sexual harrassment. Which means, he could not have filed his complaint until he was fired. His brand is strong to me, are you kidding? The brand that has been destroyed is Dentsu's. What company would hire them knowing their CEO treats American employees like this? Who would want to go home and tell their wife "Honey, I just hired Dentsu to market my product"? Are you insane? It's no wonder they only have JAPANESE clients.

Rich on 12/7/07, 12:21 PM said...

Uncle Sam,

It seems we will have to agree to disagree. I have not seen any evidence of a Dentsu client exodus that would be indicative of brand damage on their part. And, if Biegel's brand is as strong as you say, then I guess adding defamation won't serve him to well.


Rich on 12/10/07, 7:37 PM said...


According to Advertising Age, the focus of Steve Biegel's courtroom battle against Japanese ad giant Dentsu is shifting from brothels and bathhouses to charges of faith-based discrimination.

Steve Biegel now claims that not only were he and other Jewish colleagues the subject of faith-based discrimination during the three years Mr. Biegel worked at the agency, but that such bias persists within Dentsu's ranks, particularly against Denstu America's president, Doug Fidoten.

Meanwhile, Dentsu has linked the firing to "Canon, a major Dentsu client, almost cancelled its campaign because it was completely unsatisfied with a commercial that Biegel was in charge of producing."

Rich on 12/11/07, 1:40 PM said...

From AdRants comments:

"I am the attorney representing Mr. Biegel in his suit. This posting on your blog by Mr. Hall is another example of the media's persistent failure to accurately report this case. It is also a sad example of why so much on the blogosphere is unreliable. We did not "add" anything to our case. We have alleged for a year that Mr. Biegel was fired (a) because he is Jewish and (b) because he was being retaliated against for his complaints. This was in the original draft complaint sent to Dentsu a year ago. There is nothing new. This was in our originally filed complaint, filed with the federal court on 10/31/07. In response to our complaint, Dentsu filed a motion to dismiss. We have responded to the motion, explaining why the motion should be denied (as is our right). One of the claims they have sought to dismiss is the claim that Mr. Biegel was discriminated against because he is Jewish. In responding to this argument, we explained why the claim that Mr. Biegel was discriminated against is valid. It is not a new argument. And it does not displace or replace our other claims -- it is three pages out of a 25 page brief. I repeat, this is not a new claim; it has been there all along.

I find incredible that Mr. Hall feels qualified to post on this case when (a) he has obviously never read any of the filings in the case, even though they are all publicly available on the internet, and (b) he has never bothered to speak to anyone involved on the side of the plaintiff, even though they can all easily be reached. Mr. Hall erroenously relied on an article in another publication, and then bought their spin hook, line and sinker. Had Mr. Hall made even a minimal effort to research this issue before he posted, he would have realized that his statements were in error. But Mr. Hall spent more time looking for a cute graphic for his post than he did bothering to make sure that what he was saying was the truth.

Is there anyone in your industry who is willing to take the time to read the court file in this case before they publicly express an opinion? Or is that too much to ask? If folks in the blogosphere ever want their writings to rise above the level of graffiti, they are going to have to work a little harder at getting their facts straight before they post." — Andy Dwyer, Mr. Biegel's attorney

Rich on 12/11/07, 5:48 PM said...

After thoughts:

I read it before I posted. Frankly, I think Steve Hall was unjustly singled out, whether he acquiesced or not.



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