The correspondence pugilism between CAA and AMC over the agency’s lawsuit with former The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont against the entertainment company over unpaid fees, self-dealing, gross receipts and other claims just put its brass knuckles on again. “AMC’s document requests clearly exceed the bounds of legitimate discovery, as they go far beyond any issues relevant to the instant litigation. Worse, they are manifestly so burdensome and overbroad that compliance would be all but impossible,” said the agency’s lawyer Jerry Bernstein in letter sent this week to Justice Eileen Bransten of the Supreme Court of New York. The correspondence seeking a conference to find resolution in the matter is in response to a letter AMC sent two weeks ago to Her Honor seeking a wide swath of confidential documents from the agency for the case.
“Such a wholesale disclosure of the confidential information of potentially thousands of clients would be devastating to CAA’s reputation and business, would greatly damage CAA’s relationship with its clients, and would have a chilling effect on its competitive position in the marketplace,” the dense July 1 letter says (read it here). “Although prominent, CAA is certainly not the only talent agency in the entertainment industry. CAA’s clients would be outraged at the disclosure of their private information in litigation they are not parties to,” the Blank Rome attorney added. “Moreover, they would not be satisfied that even a ‘highly confidential’ designation of their documents would protect their privacy and their business interests.”
“In summary, AMC is seeking to fish through thousands of files of thousands of CAA clients who have nothing to do with this litigation, even though these files will not answer the questions of what AMC should be imputing as a fair market license fee for the Series or whether AMC properly accounted for production tax credits on the Series,” Bernstein wrote to the judge. “Such an unfettered search through CAA’s clients’ files should not be permitted.”
This all started when CAA and Darabont filed a multi-claim complaint on December 17 last year alleging that they were essentially scammed out of contractually assured profits from the hugely successful zombie apocalypse series and that AMC played a “self-dealing” artificially low license-fee shell game with the show based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels. AMC has insisted that wasn’t the case. In fact, the cable network reveled in paperwork of their own that Darabont had been paid out nearly $3 million for his work on the first two seasons of WD before being booted off the show he helped create in late July 2011. Since then it has been an almost constant volley of correspondence, with both sides demanding documents from the other and urging Bransten to find in their favor.
Which she did last month for CAA and Darabont.
On June 5, the judge ruled that AMC had to hand over licensing agreements AMC had with Sony over Breaking Bad and with Lionsgate over Mad Men for the producer and the agency’s lawyers to look at. Something that AMC really didn’t want to do. AMC’s letter to Bransten on June 16 was in many ways a counter move to that ruling — a move the plaintiffs clearly think is intended to be more than a little disruptive. “The burdens associated with gathering this information from the largest talent agency in the world, notifying all its clients and their counsel, and dealing with the inevitable fallout from unhappy clients and the negative press reports that would accompany such disclosure would be enormous,” says Bernstein.
We’ll see what the judge says.
Marc E. Kasowitz, Aaron H. Marks, John Berlinski and Mansi Shah of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP NYC and LA offices are representing AMC in the matter. Bernstein and Harris Cogan of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella represent Darabont and CAA plus Chad Fitzgerald and Aaron Liskin of Santa Monica firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.