Def Jam is being accused of manipulating Nielsen SoundScan's sales data in a $22 million lawsuit filed by a former music executive.

Def Jam is being accused of manipulating Nielsen SoundScan's sales data in a $22 million lawsuit filed by a former music executive.

In the suit, filed Jan. 26 in the Supreme Court of New York County, sales exec Theressa Rossi says she was coerced to serve as "front woman" for Giaco Entertainment, a New York marketing firm hired by Def Jam.

Rossi, a Billboard charts manager from 1986-1994, alleges that Giaco artificially inflated sales figures reported to SoundScan, resulting in distorted computerized reports. Rossi claims Def Jam offered free CDs to independent retail stores in exchange for their agreeing to repeatedly swipe the CDs across scanning machines to boost sales figures.

"Def Jam provided Giaco with free records for independent retailers to scan more records than actually sold," the complaint states. It says Giaco allegedly threatened to delay album shipments to non-complying retailers.

Named as defendants are UMG, Def Jam, Giaco president Joe Giaco and Def Jam execs Kevin Liles and Mignon Espy.

Steven K. Meier, Joe Giaco's attorney, says his client has not been served but calls the allegations "totally untrue."

A UMG spokesman says the company has not seen the lawsuit. "We have not been served with anything, and we do not comment on pending litigation," he says.

SoundScan figures, used to compile Billboard's sales charts, are widely considered the most reliable measure of consumer tastes. Nielsen SoundScan has always maintained safeguards against chart manipulation.

"While we are aware that some labels and third parties have attempted to inflate some titles' SoundScan totals, we are confident that Nielsen SoundScan's diligence rewards us with accurate data," says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts/senior analyst at Billboard.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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