WPP-owned public affairs firm Dewey Square is under investigation from the US Department of Justice over fake letters sent to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission on behalf of a so far unnamed client, believed to the Nasdaq stock exchange.
The letters, which Dewey Square says were supplied by a sub-contractor, purported to be from clients in Arkansas including Burger King and Heinz complaining about the big banks’ hold on the swaps market.
Dewey Square executive Ginny Terzano says the company “had no reason whatsoever to believe that the letters were not authentic and had no knowledge that they were in fact unauthorised.”
She says the company had been “dismayed” to learn that its own contractor, Miles Goggans, had hired another contractor who submitted the unauthorised letters.
Lobbying firms are allowed to solicit letters from third parties to support their clients in what are known as grassroots or ‘astroturf’ campaigns. Many such clients also sponsor consumer and special interest groups anonymously.
There have been numerous other instances in the US of fake letters and other documentation supplied to legislators and others since the rules were changed to allow companies to sponsor such groups anonymously.
But taking the name of big companies like Burger King and Heinz in vain and attempting to hoodwink two such powerful federal bodies take an already highly controversial practice onto a whole new plane.