As Former Employees Plotted, Mark Penn Watched

“What ever happened with Qwest? Would love to get involved in that if I could.”

On June 8, Mr. Markel wrote a brief e-mail to Renee Karson of Qwest, one of Mr. Penn’s major corporate clients, titled “FW: Checking in”:

“Hope everything is well. I just wanted to quickly check in and see how everything was going with you and Qwest. It is looking like I am going to be in Denver sometime over the next few weeks and would love to catch up over lunch or something if you are available. Thanks, and hope we can talk soon. Mitch’”

One exchange allegedly shows a PSB employee, Jennifer Negrin, in discussions with Mr. Markel that seem to hint at the possibility of working with his new firm, Global Insights and Strategies.

“Get a load of this,” wrote Ms. Negrin (who since left the firm), seeming to describe a hypothetical conversation with an unsatisfied Penn Schoen client. “sorry we didn’t get you what you need and that what we got you was wrong and that you’ll have to work all weekend because of that, we’ll be here to help you all weekend except we won’t because we have plans. Have a great weekend. J”

Mr. Markel’s reply seemed to imply that his company would be able to do better. “That’s why global insights and strategies (my new company) will be a success-because I will do good quality quant” research.

Mr. Markel’s lawyer, Randi May, contended in an interview with The Observer that the mere fact that her client’s e-mails were obtained by Mr. Penn was a violation of federal eavesdropping laws, an offense which she said overshadows whatever is in the messages themselves.

A spokesman for Mr. Penn, Jason Schechter, said that the arrangement by which the messages were intercepted was approved by lawyers for Mr. Penn’s company and signed off on by Mr. Penn personally.

One of Mr. Penn’s employees, Jonathan Gardner, admitted as much in a document filed in federal court explaining how they first discovered Mr. Markel’s activity: “On May 16, 2007, I received a chain of e-mails in which Markel responded to an e-mail directed to his PSB e-mail address, even though he was no longer with PSB. I called PSB’s Director of Technology, Merrill Raman (‘Raman’), who informed me that despite being disabled from the system, Markel was still accessing e-mails directed to his PSB
e-mail address.”

Mr. Gardner went on to describe how Mr. Raman set up a blind carbon copy of Mr. Markel’s outgoing mail, ensuring that as long as his BlackBerry was connected to the company account, all of the messages were copied to the designated Gmail account.

Big Brother tactics? Perhaps.

But Mr. Schechter dismissed Mr. Markel’s complaints as a distraction from the larger issue of alleged client theft. “It’s like a burglar tripping on a set of golf clubs on the way out of the house and suing the family for the injuries,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”