Former McCann exec Ray Volpe sues Interpublic over $380m Facebook stake windfall

Adland lawsuits are flying around all over the place in New York and now former McCann senior account man Ray Volpe is suing agency owner Interpublic for making $380m on its Facebook investment (left) and not paying him any of it.

Volpe is claiming that he advised to company to buy 2.5 per cent of Facebook preferred stock back in 2006, even guaranteeing the deal himself. Interpublic huffed and puffed but eventually went ahead, leading to a humungous profit.

Interpublic says that it was a ‘corporate deal’ and therefore nothing to do with hired hand Volpe, who left McCann last year in one of its endless shake-ups.

On the face of it, Interpublic seems to be in the (legal) right. The assumption has always been that employees do their jobs and their employers reap the profits. But some judges tend to take a rather contrary view these days, being increasingly inclined to impose their own notions of fairness on traditional business assumptions. In part this is prompted by the vast rewards company bosses vote themselves, for the work done by thousands of other people.

Last year Interpublic CEO Michael Roth picked up about $11m while McCann CEO Nick Brien got $4.7m.

Well, we’ll see.

The other legal case engrossing New York is the suit by female staff at Publicis Group-owned PR giant MSL alleging pay and other discrimination. This has been given the go-ahead by a New York judge and could cost French-owned PG somewhere north of $100m. More than that, it could prompt other disaffected women in marcoms land to demand their just desserts.

The senior managers of these companies (nearly all men) would dispute any such claims (as PG and MSL are doing, for now). Is it a level playing field on Madison Avenue and in the environs thereof?

Somehow I doubt it.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.