Lawyer: Inquirer tied ad sale pitch to investigative story

This front page story raising questions about a local law firm was mentioned in an ad sales pitch.

This front page story raising questions about a local law firm was mentioned in an ad sales pitch. (WHYY News/file)

A Philadelphia attorney said he got an ad sales pitch from the Philadelphia Inquirer suggesting he could get clients fleeing another law firm that was the subject of an investigative story in the paper just days before.

Attorney Shanin Specter said he regarded the pitch as “deeply offensive and vulturous,” and he said Wednesday he’d spoken to a top editor at the paper about it.

On Sunday, the Inquirer published a front-page story raising questions about the practices of the firm Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano, which represents employees in workers compensation cases.

Tuesday morning, Specter said his firm got a voice message from an Inquirer ad salesman offering to help them target new clients “in light of the recent negative press … or expose … regarding Pond Lehocky.”

Specter wrote in an email to Bill Marimow, a vice president of Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the paper, that he’d spoken to the salesman, who confirmed he was suggesting ads to reach “Pond Lehocky clients who would be looking to go elsewhere in light of the Inquirer ‘expose.'”

Fred Groser, chief revenue and marketing officer for Philadelphia Media Network, said in a statement that the pitch was “a mistake” by one sales representative who had been disciplined for his action.

“There was no discussion between newsroom staffers and advertising staffers,” Groser said. “And as soon as the company learned about the improper sales call, PMN informed the law firm that alerted us to the call that this would not happen again.”

UPDATE: The executive director of union that represents Inquirer advertising sales representatives got in touch to say none of his members have been disciplined in connection with this incident.

Bill Ross, executive director of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America Local 38010 said the union is investigating the matter and will make sure the member is entitled to due process.

“To say a sales rep was disciplined for doing his or her job, attempting to secure advertising, seems in violation of our collective bargaining agreement with PMN,” Ross said.

Inquirer Vice President for Human Resources Keith Black declined to respond to Ross’s comment, saying that employee discipline is an internal matter.

The story about Pond Lehocky, which also ran last week in the Daily News and Philly.com, raised questions about some partners’ ownership stake in a mail-order pharmacy, which provides medications to the firm’s clients.

Pond Lehocky founding partner Sam Pond said in a statement the firm’s practices are ethical and that the story “cherry-picked” information to paint an unflattering picture.

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