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.
- See BNET's previous coverage of the in-store marketing wars:
- Cameras Banned at Valassis v. News America Trial; Whistleblower Emmel Also Ruled Out
- On Eve of Valassis vs. News America Trial in State Court, a Federal Judge Looks On --
- UPDATED: News America Marketing's Acquisition of Floorgraphics Not Big Enough to Show Up in Q1 Numbers
- Valassis Q1: Legal Bills Running at 22% of Profits; Hints of Layoffs?
- News America Marketing Sues Valassis Alleging Bogus Web Posts
- Valassis Accused of Using Hidden Identities in Online War With News America Marketing
- News America Marketing Forces Whistleblower Into Bankruptcy
- News America Marketing Whistleblower: Clients Were Charged for Ads That Never Appeared
- Was N.Y. Post's Carlucci the Reason for News America Marketing's Settlement With Floorgraphics?
- News America Marketing's Alleged Plans to Seize Safeway Account Outlined in Suit
- Valassis to Stick With "Majority" of Newspapers; Settles Fraser Billing Dispute
- Valassis, Insignia Stock Jumps on News America Marketing Group Settlement
- Valassis CEO Got Big Raise Despite Company's Losses
- News America Marketing Group Wins Summary Judgment Against Whistleblower Robert Emmel
- News America Marketing Group Buys Floorgraphics Just Hours After Settling Spying Lawsuit
- News America Marketing Group Settles With Floorgraphics; Valassis, Insignia Likely Rejoicing
- Valassis May Not Be Able to Pay Debt; Litigation May "Materially Harm" the Company
- Trial: Did News America Marketing Group Break Into Floorgraphics' Computers?
- Valassis Stock Threatened With De-listing by NYSE