John Gallagher, also a Mercury partner, is considering departing as well, they said.
The three declined to comment on their plans.
The pending departures would come on the heels of an exodus of top consultants in the company’s California office. Former Democratic politicians Fabian Nuñez, Barbara Boxer and Antonio Villaraigosa recently resigned over financial disputes and Nuñez is alleging Omnicom is blocking them from expanding their business and using noncompete clauses that are barred by California law.
In his suit, Nuñez criticized the company’s handling of a foreign nonprofit connected to former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — an episode that left Mercury legally and reputationally vulnerable, The Los Angeles Times reported last week.
At issue in New York — where the company has represented prominent real estate developers, Charter Communications and Sharpton’s National Action Network — is Omnicom’s insistence on restrictive covenants that stipulate departed staffers cannot continue to represent the firm’s clients or work together for at least a year.
The employees knowingly signed those agreements after Omnicom bought Mercury in 2005, but the setup is now under fire from Sharpton and other civil rights organizations who say it is outdated and oppressive.
“People of color in the business world of all ages really have been undervalued and as a result, I believe they’re underpaid. Corporations like Omnicom want to lean on restrictive covenants to hold them down, hold them back,” Sharpton said in a recent interview.
Under the agreement, Noerdlinger could not continue to represent Sharpton after leaving, despite their 25-year professional relationship, he said.
An Omnicom spokesperson did not respond to questions, but shared a lawsuit it filed last week in federal court in Manhattan. The court papers argue, among other things, that California’s Nuñez and Kirill Goncharenko engaged in an “unlawful scheme to harm Mercury and further line their own pockets.”
“Having been paid millions of dollars by Mercury, and having promised in multiple written contracts not to solicit Mercury’s employees or clients, defendants have now broken those promises,” the lawsuit states. “Defendants have resigned from Mercury, set up a new business, and are in the process of stripping Mercury’s California office of its employees and clients.”
The suit was filed across the country because, the plaintiffs argue, “the applicable contracts provide for New York courts as the ‘exclusive’ forum and for New York law to apply. It seeks to enforce the contractual provisions that the parties agreed to, for which Mercury negotiated and paid handsomely, and which defendants have openly breached.”
Sharpton said he plans to urge the state Legislature to take up the cause and pass a bill outlawing noncompete clauses, with which President Joe Biden has also indicated concern.
He is joined by Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, who called noncompete mandates “both unconstitutional and illegal in most respects” in a letter sent Monday to Omnicom CEO John Wren.
“They prevent people from using their God-given human talent to pursue business and occupational interests on their own behalf,” Morial added.
He also indicated support for a bill Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) plans to introduce in Albany that would bar companies of any size from workers sign noncompete clauses.
Dinowitz said he has discussed his legislation with people at Mercury, but said he has long been concerned about the issue.
In a recent interview, he called noncompete clauses “undemocratic, inequitable, unfair.”