The Williams Formula 1 Team has become locked in a complex legal battle with a former employee who claims the company tried to destroy her reputation with accusations of fraud and adultery.
It has been reported by The Times that Williams’ former marketing executive, Claudia Schwarz, has launched a $100m lawsuit in the United States against her former employer.
Schwarz claims that she was forced out by the company when a mystery investor at Dorilton Capital demanded a “drastic reduction” in the team’s budget due to unsatisfactory performances on and off track. This led to its then Chief Executive Darren Fultz being let go, and the team being told to “get rid of all marketing suppliers”.
She also claims that the team leaked details of an alleged affair with Fultz to a magazine. Schwarz denies having an affair with Fultz and claims that Dorilton Capital and Williams created misogynistic stories as a means to avoid paying her out of her contracts.
Jeremy Friedman of Downs Law Group, who represents Schwarz, said: “This lawsuit will bring to light what we contend are false public statements made by Dorilton and Williams about Schwarz and her company that we believe have been done in a calculated effort to avoid both contractual obligations and to put pressure on Schwarz to stay quiet and not defend herself.
“They believed that Schwarz would not fight back and defend herself, her companies and her reputation. She is fighting back.”
The matter is further complicated by a countersuit, filed by Williams, whereby the company is seeking $6.9m from Schwarz – money that the team claims she received fraudulently.
Schwarz has been accused of executing an “orchestrated” scheme to overcharge Williams by $6.9m between February 2021 and March 2022.
The team also alleges that the marketing executive would funnel work to suppliers with whom she had a ‘personal’ or ‘intimate’ connection in order to overcharge the team. This included handing contracts to her husband Alex Ludwig despite his “exorbitant fees and limited qualifications”.
Williams claims that the marketing director had “ingratiated herself” with high-ranking figures, and engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with Fultz so that he would agree to “inaccurate and overinflated invoices and improper credit card charges.”
The team has also presented 30 examples of “improper spending” on her company credit card which included trips to the Park Lane Hotel in central London, Manhattan’s Soho Grand Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal.
In its claim against Schwarz, Williams said: “In a scene reminiscent of the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, Schwarz once unleashed on her personal assistant, screaming at her because Schwarz could not bring her dogs into the cabin of a commercial plane for a flight from Miami to London.”
Williams also accuses Shwarz of “unprofessional and egregious conduct on a near-daily basis, creating a toxic workplace culture and terrorising staff”. Former colleagues alleged Schwarz “displayed ‘sociopathic’ and ‘narcissistic’ tendencies” and created an “environment of fear and blame”.