More than two months after former union president Ed Asner and over a dozen others filed suit claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals, SAG-AFTRA today took formal aim at their case. In motions filed Wednesday in federal court (read it here), SAG-AFTRA argues that most of the suit should be dismissed. “What plaintiffs fail to mention in the 52 pages of their complaint is that much of the challenges they raise to SAG-AFTRA’s residuals collection and distribution programs has already been resolved in a judicially approved settlement of virtually identical allegations in a class action lawsuit,” says the nearly 30-page filing. “The instant lawsuit is a virtual verbatim restatement of the settled Osmond litigation,” it adds. That 2007 action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors was resolved back in 2010. They had accused SAG at the time of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties.
The broadcasters’ desire to shut Aereo down could end up at the nation’s highest court. “The 2nd circuit’s denial of our request for an ‘en banc’ hearing, while disappointing was not unexpected. We will now review …
Paramount Pictures claims that it was the victim of a fraud and conspiracy involving JP Morgan and it’s not going to take it anymore. “Paramount Pictures Corporation brings this Cross-Complaint against Content Partners LLC and its affiliate seeking redress for a years-long scheme by Content Partners and Wall Street investment bank JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. to defraud Paramount through an unlawful and secret assignment of rights in connection with 25 Paramount motion pictures,” says the cross complaint (read it here) filed Thursday in LA Superior Court in Santa Monica by the studio. “The cross-complaint seeks relief for a contrived attempt to frustrate Paramount’s rights and tarnish its reputation in relation to a series of film financing transactions, a Paramount spokesperson told me today.
Calling Content Partners as “the Hollywood equivalent of a patent troll,” the dense legal action this week comes in response to a $45 million breach of contract and fraud suit that the asset management group brought against Paramount in 2010 over profit participation on films such as Face/Off and The Truman Show. Content Partners claimed that the studio played fast and loose with paying out money it owed. The 2010 case had been winding its way through the courts and the discovery process. It was scheduled to go to trial later this month but delayed because the judge retired. Now Paramount has fired back and set a whole new legal saga in motion. The jury trial seeking complaint filed Thursday claims intentional interference with contractual relations, fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair business practices and civil conspiracy. Though mentioned throughout the complaint as being deeply involved in the alleged fraud and other claims, J.P. Morgan are not actually named as a defendant in this week’s filing.
No details on the terms yet, but TiVo stock closed +8.3% after the court in Texas where the trial was to begin on June 10 confirmed that the case has been settled. TiVo had alleged …
Panavision needs to pay up what it owes, says a bank that is taking the camera supply company to court for $1.7 million. The money is the remainder of a two-part $335 million refinancing that Panavision worked out back in 2006 with Credit Suisse. Most of that debt was cancelled in 2010 in a further financing restructuring. Still, a bit was left over and has supposedly not been paid by Panavision since the debt matured at the end of March 2012. Late last month Wilmington Trust, National Association filed paperwork with the New York State Supreme Court seeking a summary judgment from the court to get the money back. Wilmington, the collateral agent for Credit Suisse, is claiming breach of contract and wants the $1.7 million plus interest, legal costs and “such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper”.
Looks like the streaming of network TV is about to end in Washington DC. Less than a week after ABC, NBC and Fox filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court in DC against Alki David‘s FilmOn and his Aereokiller service, the media industry provocateur says he’s pulling the broadcasters from his streaming service. “To avoid more inane lawsuits and one that is clearly rigged, we have decided to take down the Major Broadcasters in Washington DC and replace them with Independent stations. Something we are considering doing all across the country,” David said today in an open letter to broadcasters. David offers no date for when he will pull the networks from his service or any timeline. The lawsuit filed by the three networks on May 23 asked the court for an injunction to stop FilmOn and Aereokiller from being able to stream their local programming online.
SAG-AFTRA Sued For Witholding Foreign Residuals And Rewarding Officials; UPDATE: Union Says “Without Merit”
SATURDAY UPDATE, 10:48 AM: The union says that it will “vigorously respond in the appropriate forum in due course” to the suit filed Friday by former SAG president Ed Asner and others over $110 million in undistributed residuals and royalties. Claiming that they are “proud” and “confident” in their foreign royalties program, SAG-AFTRA admit they haven’t actually seen the filing itself. Still, based on previous correspondence with the plaintiffs, the union calls the claims “completely without merit.” Read statement here:
We are very proud of, and confident in, our unclaimed residuals and foreign royalties programs which distribute millions of dollars to performers every year. The foreign royalties program has successfully distributed to performers more than $14 million — money that would otherwise go uncollected and be lost to them forever. The foreign royalties program was previously subject to a class action lawsuit that resulted in a resolution favorable to the union after intense scrutiny of the program. While we have not been provided with a copy of the current complaint, the claims as presented in the plaintiff’s earlier correspondence have been thoroughly reviewed and are completely without merit. We will vigorously respond in the appropriate forum in due course.
PREVIOUS FRIDAY PM: Actors Ed Asner, Clancy Brown, Dennis Hayden, and George Coe are among the 15 plaintiffs who filed suit today in federal court against SAG-AFTRA for not properly disbursing $110 million in foreign residuals they say have not been paid out. Asner is the former SAG president (1981-1985) who very publicly opposed the SAG-AFTRA merger along with other ex-union board members. The 52-page filing (read it here) also claims that the merged union has deliberately withheld information and kept the money in trust and spent portions on first class travel and lavish parties and big salaries for current union officials. “Plaintiffs have reason to believe that SAG-AFTRA has now amassed a substantial slush fund that does not belong to the labor organization but instead belongs to members and non-members, and/or their estates, on covered and uncovered works,” says Friday’s filing. Requesting a jury trial, the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages as well as injunctive relief and an order by the court that would stop the union from being able to collect overseas royalties. Instead, the suit proposes a separate “independent body” established to handle the funds in the future.
UPDATE MAY 8: Variety Media today added Reed Elsevier and Reed Business Information to its kickbacks and fraud case against branding company Beverly Hills Media Group. “Plaintiff has suffered damages in an …
Lifetime will be able to broadcast Romeo Killer: The Christopher Porco Story on Saturday as scheduled, a judge ruled today. NY Supreme Court Associate Justice Elizabeth Garry stayed all injunctive relief in a two-page order (read it here). The network had its emergency appeal granted after filling it Wednesday in the New York State Appellate Division, Third Department. The victory overturns the jailhouse injunction that another NY Supreme Court Judge, Robert Muller, granted Porco on Tuesday to prevent the depiction of his case airing this weekend. Porco claimed the TV movie was a violation of his rights to his image and name. Porco is currently serving 46 years to life in prison for killing his father and trying to kill his mother. Lifetime now intends to show a documentary Beyond The Headlines: The Real Romeo Killer after the movie Saturday.
The ongoing sideshow that is Keith Olbermann and his employment woes just continues. Within days before a high level mediation meeting in San Francisco, the one-time TV host is now seeking a summary judgment in his $50 million lawsuit against Current TV (now being sold to Al Jazeera). In heavily redacted court documents (read them here) filed under seal in LA Superior Court on Thursday the former Countdown frontman wants an April 24 hearing to rule in his favor over his former employers. The documents filed this week are Olbermann’s evidence why the court should rule for him. While most of the document is blanked out, the introduction to the 25-page filing gives a pretty good sense of where the former talking head is coming from:
Current breached 16(a)(i) of the Agreement by making disparaging and derogatory statements in the public and to its staff about Mr. Olbermann and by disclosing confidential terms of the parties’ Agreement to the press. Current breached 2(a)(ii) of the Agreement by using Mr. Olbermann’s likeness in connection with advertising the Program properties, all without his prior approval. Current breached 5(c) by using Olbermann’s name, without his approval, in connection with a commercial for AT&T. Current breached 2(a) and 2(b)(ii) by denying Mr. Olbermann editorial control over “Program Specials” broadcast on Current, and breached 2(a)(i) by refusing Mr. Olbermann editorial control of the website when it denied his request to stream segments of Countdown over the Website. Current breached 13(d) of the agreement by improperly terminating Mr. Olbermann’s employment.
Olbermann and his lawyers are scheduled to meet with Current TV executives on March 12 at the offices of Antonio Piazza of Mediation Negotiations in San Francisco. Former Vice-President and Current co-founder Al Gore and Current president David Bohrman are expected to attend.
Unless they want to take it to the Supreme Court, it looks like Disney has run out of legal lifelines and will have to pay up in the $319 million Who Wants To Be A Millionaire case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday unanimously rejected a petition by the company for a new trial against Millionaire creator Celador International, which in 2010 was awarded damages by a jury who agreed with the UK company that Disney breached the contract between Celador and it own TV divisions. “The panel votes to deny the petition for rehearing en banc…The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc,” said the brief order (read it here) issued this week.
The unanimous vote and the fact no other judge on the court was interested in a vote on the case does not bode well for Disney overturning the multimillion-dollar July 2010 verdict against it further up the legal food chain.
After almost two years, the $50 million Escape From Planet Earth lawsuit against the Weinstein Company is over. The distributor came to a settlement with plaintiffs Brian Inerfeld and Tony Leech on February 15, …
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its former publicist Michael Russell have ended at least one portion of their on-going legal wars. The parties came to a settlement last week in Russell’s $2 million …
A film financing company claims Emmett/Furla Films owes it over $2.6 million for a loan for the now shuttered Motor City and it wants the courts to ensure it can get the cash back. In its Petition for Provisional Relief Pending Arbitration (read it here) filed Wednesday, Row 1 Entertainment says that it provided a short-term bridge loan to EFF last July for $1,735,000. The money was intended for pre-production financing for Motor City and was supposed to be paid back on October 9, 2012. However, EFF suspended production on Motor City on September 1 because of scheduling and release date hassles. The Albert Hughes directed project has not been resurrected, star Gerard Butler is going after EFF for pay-or-play money and Row 1 says despite repeated efforts it hasn’t gotten its dough.