WME hit with fraud lawsuit by ‘La La Land’ composer over packaging deal – Deadline

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UPDATE, 10:25 a.m.: Get your tickets now! WME will go to trial next year for a fraud trial of The Earth’s Oscar-winning composer.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge this morning set May 8, 2023 as the date for the legal battle between Justin Hurwitz and the Endeavor-owned talent agency and the now divested Endeavor content. The almost certain to be juicy jury trial in DTLA will be overseen by Judge Barbara Scheper.

“Despite WME’s Writer’s Guild experience, previous conflict of interest claims, and the forced sale of 80% of Endeavour’s content, in less than a year WME will have to explain to a jury why it sued his tortious conduct and ignored the fiduciary duty he owed to his client Justin Hurwitz,” the composer’s lead attorney, Bryan Freedman, told Deadline today after a status conference on the matter. can’t come soon enough.”

Hard hitter Freedman and fellow actor Tamar Yeghiayan sued Ari Emanuel-led units earlier this year over alleged financial reverse baiting and a change that saw Hurwitz, now replaced by CAA, drastically aggrieved over a tour version of his music from director Damien Chazelle’s acclaimed 2016 film.

WME did not respond to request for comment on the trial date setting. Previously, when the fairly heated complaint was first filed in January, the agency said “these allegations are without merit and WME intends to vigorously defend itself.”

Which they are clearly going to have to do now.

PREVIOUSLY, JAN 10 AM: EXCLUSIVE: A scathing lawsuit filed Monday by the composer of The Earth may leave WME wishing we had slipped them the wrong envelope.

However, unlike the Best Picture Oscar debacle of 2017, Oscar and Grammy winner Justin Hurwitz’s breach of contract, negligence and fraud claim against the agency and its now divested production arm Endeavor Content during a “live-to-film concert” tour of the film directed by Damien Chazelle seems much more than a simple sleight of hand.

Illustrated by an invective-filled cameo (surprise, surprise) from Ari Emanuel, the intellectual property-based lawsuit filed this morning in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorneys Bryan Freedman and Tamar Yeghiayan claims that “WME cynically concocted an illegal scheme, whereby his fixed profit of La La Land in concert was completely out of step with industry standards for talent agencies. Resurrecting the packaging demons for which WME and other Tinseltown studios hoped to be forgiven during their legal capitulations to the WGA last year, the civil complaint alleges that Hurwitz was scammed by its own representatives. on high driving fees and more so that WME can “secure the license for the tour of La La Land in concert – only to self-treat by competing directly with Hurwitz for tour profits” (read here).

“It was only after pressure from the Writers Guild to reveal the conflicts of interest of said talent agencies that WME moved quickly to transfer its license to La La Land in concert to Endeavor Content, its newly created subsidiary, to try to hide its manifest breaches of its fiduciary duties,” the action reads at one point. “Hurwitz never consented to the secret transfer to Endeavor Content, which at all times was 100% owned by the same parent company.”

“Hurwitz found himself in the absurd position of being denied the opportunity to work by his own talent agent on a project in which his talent agent was supposed to represent him,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, the talent-talent agency relationship had been disrupted.”

Or even more bluntly…

“This action stems from WME’s shocking conduct, whereby the talent agency sought to extract additional profits from its client, renowned songwriter Justin Hurwitz, behind his back, in breach of its ethical and fiduciary duties to him,” said the accountant’s 22-page filing statements.

“WME cynically and systematically entered into secret agreements concerning his client without his knowledge or consent, after he had entrusted WME, his agency, with looking after his best interests and the ‘help maximize his potential compensation,’ the attorneys for Freedman + Taitelman continue. . “Instead, Hurwitz discovered that WME had tricked him – not only by pocketing what should have been his winnings, but also by lying to his face.”

“These allegations are without merit and WME intends to vigorously defend itself,” the agency said in response Monday.

Now with CAA, Hurwitz, seeking a jury trial, is considering a wide range of damages from defendants for apparently being repeatedly wronged by WME and its then-agent (and later vice president of Endeavor Content) Amos Newman on the international touring production which he basically put together at the insistence of his reps. The lawsuit also implies that the composer whose credits also include Chazelle first man may not be the only victim of pickpocketing.

“To help with this process, WME even went so far as to create several ‘subsidiaries’ to hide its glaring conflict of interest with its customers, and eventually landed with a ‘subsidiary’ known as Endeavor Content, LLC. “, says the complaint about the production entity created in 2017 by the publicly traded company.

“This ‘subsidiary’ was created for the sole purpose of enabling WME to hide money from its customers and regularly embezzle millions of dollars from them,” the filing states. “In fact, this bogus Endeavor Content “affiliate” was so controversial for its continued cover-up of breaches of WME’s fiduciary duties, that, under extreme pressure from the Writers Guild of America and a high-profile settlement, it has now been terminated. setting up. putting up for sale.”

South Korean entertainment giant CJ ENM is set to buy 80% of Endeavor Content – ​​which had been locked into peace surrender terms with the WGA and scribe clients – for almost a billion under a deal announced last year, with the parent company retaining a small but sizable stake.

Not that retirement matters much in this case — at least not for the plaintiffs.

“But this cannot be the end of this case: now is the time for WME to acknowledge the facts which are obvious to all and belatedly return its ill-gotten gains to its victimized customers,” notes today’s filing. today.

As for that Emanuel appearance in the trial, take a look:

Disgusted with how much WME profited from his work, without ever disclosing his profits to Hurwitz, despite numerous requests to WME, Hurwitz sought to renegotiate another deal with WME over the production of LLL in Concert. After ongoing negotiations, WME and Hurwitz were unable to reach an agreement.

Eventually, in February 2021, Hurwitz reached out to WME manager Ariel “Ari” Emanuel to express his frustrations. Hurwitz informed Emanuel that he wanted to be able to direct his own score and remain a client of the agency, but the conflict of interest made it impossible to do both. In response to Hurwitz’s inquiry, Emmanuel began making excuses, falsely claiming that WME was doing nothing wrong. Emmanuel (sic) then claimed that Hurwitz would never get such favorable terms for LLL in concert as Hurwitz was already receiving for other live productions.

A follow-up call between Emmanuel (sic) and Hurwitz was then scheduled where Hurwitz trusted and believed his agency, WME, would do the right thing – both for their client and in accordance with their ethical and fiduciary obligations. This was not the case. After it became clear that Hurwitz would no longer be willing to remain silent to allow a cover-up of WME’s misconduct, Emmanuel (sic) vengefully insisted that Hurwitz would no longer be able to work with “none of my businesses” and canceled his call. with Hurwitz. Emmanuel’s (sic) actions coupled with the fact that Hurwitz’s agents were clearly not acting in the interest of their client left Hurwitz no choice but to seek representation from another talent agency. . Thereafter, even the paltry payments due to Hurwitz under the residual WME agreement ceased, although LLL in Concert continued to be booked worldwide.

Hurwitz left WME for rival CAA shortly after those conversations nearly a year ago. WME signed its franchise deal with the WGA on Feb. 5, 2021, essentially killing the packaging revenue pipeline that all major agencies have been feasting on for years.

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