Valassis v. News America: Whistleblower Emmel's Prior Testimony Allowed In

Last Updated May 30, 2009 6:35 PM EDT

The Michigan state judge presiding in the trial between Valassis and News America Marketing will allow testimony from Robert Emmel, a whistleblower formerly employed by News America. Although Emmel himself has been banned from the stand by order of a federal judge in Atlanta, his pre-existing deposition testimony from a separate case* will be allowed in Michigan. An attorney for Valassis confirmed that the testimony was allowed in; News America did not return a message requesting comment.

The development is a blow to News America, for whom Emmel has become radioactive. Emmel, a former account director at News America, left the company but took with him a cache of documents allegedly detailing the company's anti-competitive behavior. He presented that information to federal authorities.

He then became a witness for two other in-store agencies, Floorgraphics Inc. and Insignia Systems, in their anticompetition litigation against News America. In the Floorgraphics trial, Emmel alleged on the stand that News America systematically ripped off its clients by billing them for ads placed in stores that didn't exist.

It is not currently known what Emmel's deposition testimony is about, but presumably it covers the same sort of stuff that was hinted at in the Floorgraphics matter.

Figuring out whether Emmel's testimony is a big deal or not will be difficult because Judge Michael Sapala banned cameras from his Wayne County circuit courtroom on the eve of trial. The rest of the Detroit media is focused on General Motors' imminent bankruptcy filing, so no journalists are covering the case.

*Correction: An original version of this post contained incorrect information about a consent decree filed by News America in Minnesota. Apologies for the screwup.


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