Secretaries who bite back

Faria Alam and Jenny 'Ketchup' Amner are the latest PAs to have turned on the boss - but they're not the first. Stuart Husband introduces us to the Miss Moneypennys who were pushed a fax too far...

The siren: Faria Alam

The charges

Sultry, pouting Faria Alam nailed the fallacy that the Football Association was full of stuffed shirts laboriously explaining the intricacies of the offside rule to baffled outsiders. In fact, the 39-year-old former model, employed as personal assistant to the association's executive director David Davies, revealed the FA to be a cross between Footballers' Wives and Celebrity Love Island.

With the coyness of the true siren, she confined the revelations of her affairs with England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and FA chief Mark Palios to a few leaked e-mails ("I'm 36, unmarried and loving it. My social life is amazing... I date famous people") and a couple of trifling stories that somehow found their way into the bawdier publications ("Sven has a great body ... he performs a certain sexual act in a very satisfactory way"), while accepting a nominal fee of £300,000 for her troubles and retaining a becoming modesty ("I worked in insurance once ... I knew my potential lay with high-flyers and big shots" and pointing out her intentions ("I want to be happy and very, very rich and successful and I will be ... I'm not going through life settling for second-best EVER").

Sadly, it seems the powers-that-be at the FA were anything but ready to be dragged by their cleated boots to the Love Shack, and Alam, who resigned last August (in a fax sent from the offices of Max Clifford PR firm just before she signed a contract for her kiss-and-tell tales with two Sunday newspapers), is now claiming damages for breach of contract, sexual discrimination, unequal pay and unfair dismissal.

The upshot

With God and Max Clifford on her side, expect Alam to ditch the shorthand, whatever the outcome of the hearing, and take her rightful place alongside those other modern sirens - Rebecca Loos and Abi Titmuss - luring unwary Z-listers into ever-more- lubricious reality-TV formats.

The avenger: Jennifer Ferguson

The charges

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then Ferguson's righteous retribution was fished out of the bottom of the deep-freeze. When she failed to get a job that seemed a shoo-in, and discovered it was because her previous employer, Alan Malcolm, right, - one of Scotland's leading financial consultants - had given her a poor reference, she went straight to the police and informed them of the 20,000 images of child pornography she'd discovered on his e-mail account while he was on holiday. (She'd previously informed Malcolm of her find on his return to work, adding that she was "uncomfortable" with what she'd seen; there's a lesson here somewhere involving having someone sink their teeth into you and subsequently developing more of a self-effacing nature.

The upshot

Malcolm ended up in court, and prospective employers of Ferguson have buttressed their firewalls while printing up glowing notices of her all-purpose acumen in advance.

The embezzler: Joyti De-Laurey

The charges

De-Laurey is the embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism; as PA to two of the managing directors at Goldman Sachs, she managed to skim off £4.5m of their personal wealth before they noticed that anything was amiss. Described as "a fantasist on a grand scale" in court, she transcended her workaday life - married to a chauffeur, living in a semi - by wantonly super-sizing her cars and houses, and draping herself in Cartier and Tiffany bling ("I had no suspicions," her husband Tony reportedly said. "I mean, all Indian women like jewellery, don't they?") She was only unmasked when she went for broke by forging a cheque for £2.25m; her usual increments were £60,000 to £70,000, which a Goldman Sachs managing director enchantingly mused was "equal to a regular person not noticing the last penny on their bank account". This may go some way toward explaining public attitudes to the case, including a marked lack of sympathy for the GS masters of the universe, a stubborn inability to get the words "good", "on" and "yer" out of the mind, and the fact that Meera Syal - not, by anyone's standards, an average pantomime villain - starred as De-Laurey in a recent docu-drama about the case.

The upshot

De-Laurey is currently serving seven years. Bond Street is said to be feeling the pinch.

The condiment queen: Jenny Amner

The charges

It's a familiar foodie nightmare; tearing wildly at an infernal ketchup sachet until it explodes in your face, or pumping away at a tomato-shaped dispenser in order to entice a sliver of scarlet nectar through the congealed goo blocking its tip, only to ignite a sudden splurge accompanied by a comedy-farty noise. When Jenny Amner had her Michael Crawford Moment in the canteen at Baker & Mckenzie - the world's fifth-biggest law firm - she re-colour-wayed the trousers of "high-flying £100,000-plus" senior associate Richard Phillips and ignited Ketchupgate. Phillips demanded she pay the £4 cost of his dry-cleaning out of her comparatively meagre salary; she leaked his e-mail which she received after returning to work from her mother's funeral, along with her own response - "I have had more pressing issues ... obviously your financial need is greater than mine as a mere secretary". The exchanges spread through the City's in-boxes, and hey presto - a new Silas Marner was born.

The upshot

Phillips has since handed in his notice, claiming wanly that he'd been "considering a change of career for some time", and Amner is on paid leave, apparently snubbed by colleagues who feel Phillips has been unnecessarily pilloried. The answer's simple - get Heinz to sign them up for a remake of the Rossiter/Collins Cinzano ads, with ketchup arcing into laps in ever-more-ingenious ways. Failing that, Jenny, a top tip - always get your fix from a good old-fashioned glass bottle and shake very gently with your fingers on the "57" halfway down. The collateral damage should be minimal.

The abused: Georgina Galanis

The charges

In the World's Most Dangerous Job stakes, being PA to Naomi Campbell, left, is right up there alongside bomb disposal and stunt double to Siegfried and/or Roy. Streatham's finest discovered the joys of happy-slapping long before it was fashionable, as a slew of battered assistants have testified. They claim to have felt the force of those not-so-petite fists (former housekeeper Millicant Burton, after she refused to help Naomi pack her thongs for a trip to Brazil); been subjected to ear-splitting hissy-fits (former PA Vanessa Frisbee); and been deluged in a hail of top-of-the-range mobile phones, headbutted, bitten on the lip, and pulled to the floor by the hair, wrenching their back in the process (former assistant Amie Castaldo). But, in a textbook example of the Theory Of Eternal Recurrence, ex-PAs keep leaving Naomi's employ swathed in bandages, and courtroom and/or tabloid elaborations of her inner chav just keep on coming. Galanis, initially thrilled to enter the world of the queen fashionista, stood the rising tide of screams and verbal abuse ("you fucking worthless bitch," etc), and deftly dodged the inevitable flying phone, but drew the line when Naomi threatened to push her out of a moving car.

The upshot

The court case saw Naomi forced to pay an undisclosed sum to Galanis in damages; she was also ordered to attend anger management classes, which have in no way lessened her status as the supermodel version of Vicky Pollard, though she remains, inexplicably, Asbo-free.

The gagged: Jane Williams

The charges

There are more subtle ways to grind down a PA than Naomi Campbell's verbal abuse and physical assault. You could, like Mary Archer, turn on the full force of your death-ray fragrance to crush nascent insurrection.

After years of patiently transcribing pleas of support for the disgraced Jeffrey - a uniquely desolate entry in the annals of lost causes - Jane Williams, Mary Archer's former assistant, brought a case for unfair dismissal three years ago. A story had appeared in the press about Mary Archer's facelift and she sought an injunction to gag Williams, whom she blamed for the leak. Williams, meanwhile, claimed she was sacked because she gave a statement to police and appeared in court during Lord Archer's perjury trial, giving some indication of the uniquely complex contortions required of the drones in the Archer household.

Mary Archer also accused Williams of "salting away" documents that she was intending to sell to the press as her "pension fund".

The upshot

When Williams admitted that OK, she'd had a little chat with Max Clifford, and the words "News", "of", "the", and "World" may have passed their lips, the case was effectively over, leaving Williams bankrupt and Archer more petrifyingly serene than ever. Rumours that any would-be Archer PAs now have to undergo the Cambridgeshire equivalent of omerta before being admitted through the vicarage doors could not be confirmed.

Comments