‘La La Land’ Composer Profits Lawsuit Gets Response From WME – Billboard
William Morris Endeavor is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month by the Oscar-winning composer of The Earthmocking the idea that the talent agency duped a former client who is “meticulous and Harvard-educated”.
Justin Hurwitz sued last month, accusing WME of “cynically and systematically” defrauding him of live concert profits from the film’s Oscar-winning score. He claimed his former agency had secret conflicts of interest with the company that produced the concerts, among other wrongdoings.
But in its first official response to the lawsuit on Tuesday (February 22), WME said Hurwitz was not an unsuspecting victim.
“From the outset, Hurwitz was fully aware of the initial affiliation between his talent agency and the production of the La La Land in Concert series,” wrote attorneys for the agency at law firm Greenberg Traurig. “The meticulous, Harvard-educated Hurwitz understood and agreed to this arrangement, later admitting in writing that he was ‘okay’ with Endeavor Content to make more money than him under the circumstances.”
The agency said Hurwitz voluntarily agreed to a deal in which he “earned hundreds of thousands of dollars” in fixed fees and income, while others paid the upfront costs and did all the heavy lifting to produce a concert series.
“Years later, despite paying no fees and taking no risks, Hurwitz demanded more money, insisting on a profit share in the production unparalleled in the industry,” WME wrote. Even after receiving more money, the agency said it was still “not enough for Hurwitz,” who resorted to “this baseless lawsuit.”
In a statement to BillboardHurwitz lawyer Bryan Freeman responded to WME’s filing by calling it “a clear admission of wrongdoing.”
“WME had a fiduciary duty to build Justin’s career and create more opportunities for him; instead, they cynically engaged in personal dealings and made ten times more compensation than he did on their client’s work,” Freedman said. “Now they are trying to blame the victims. But the facts are clear. And we can’t wait to be judged.
Tuesday’s response came six weeks after Hurwitz filed his lawsuit, which accused WME of ‘abusing’ its relationship with him to secure control of the The Earth gigs. He says the agency essentially cheated him in the arrangement, which saw him “accept a tiny slice of the pie” in revenue.
Hurwitz’s lawsuit echoes a recent legal battle waged by the Writers Guild of America against WME and other agencies. In that case, the union claimed the agencies had created a conflict of interest by both representing talent and producing content themselves. That dispute ended last year with a settlement in which the agencies agreed to sharply limit their stake in the production companies.
In technical terms, Hurwitz accuses WME of breach of fiduciary duty to him, as well as breach of contract and breach of the so-called implied term of good faith and fair dealing – the fundamental obligation to act fairly in any transaction. The lawsuit also accuses WME of negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud. Tuesday’s filing was a “response,” which is usually a defendant’s first response in civil litigation.
UPDATE:This story was updated on Feb. 25 at 2:50 p.m. EST with a statement from Hurwitz’s attorney.