The LA City Attorney’s office is cracking down on talent scams that charge upfront fees to aspiring performers. At a press conference this morning, City Attorney Mike Feuer said that music industry veteran Debra Baum has been charged with four counts of violating the Talent Scam Prevention Act. If convicted, she could face up to two years in jail and $20,000 in fines. Arraignment is scheduled for February 5.
“Thousands come to Hollywood every year to pursue their dreams in the entertainment industry,” said Feuer. “We need to protect them from those who would dash those dreams by taking unfair advantage of them.”
In March 2012, Baum allegedly solicited a 19-year-old singer in a hair salon to sign a $10,000-per-month management contract to handle her vocal career. Before terminating the contract that September, the victims’ family allegedly paid $70,000 in management fees to Baum as well as thousands of dollars in third-party expenses for vocal training, stylists and recordings. The victim’s sister was also allegedly solicited for a contract and paid an additional $40,000 to Baum in management fees for acting. A complaint was subsequently made to the City Attorney’s Office and investigated by the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.
Baum has been a music supervisor, producer or consultant on numerous films, including A Walk To Remember, Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and 3000 Miles To Graceland. There was no answer today at Baum’s management company, the DB Entertainment Group.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who authored the Talent Scam Prevention Act of 2009, said it is designed “to protect performers and their families from being taken advantage of by talent representatives. Since I joined the City Council, I have worked hand in hand with the City Attorney’s office to monitor and ensure the law’s enforcement. We are now taking another important step forward by reaching out to the public with information and putting all fraudsters on notice that they will be prosecuted if they lie, cheat and steal to get ahead.”
The Talent Scam Prevention Act prohibits talent agents and talent managers from charging an advance fee for representation as well as requiring clients of talent training, talent counseling and talent listing services to purchase photographs, websites and other promotional materials as a condition for using or for obtaining preferential treatment from that service.
SAG-AFTRA also took part in the press conference, which was intended to raise awareness about talent scams. “SAG-AFTRA works tirelessly to ensure that our members – and future members – are protected from fraudulent talent scams that prey on their hopes, dreams, and optimism,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief operating officer and general counsel. “Having worked closely with lawmakers to achieve enactment of the Talent Scam Prevention Act, we applaud the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for its commitment to enforcing the law and safeguarding performers, especially young performers and their families, who so often fall victim to these scams. The best law would be meaningless without effective and vigorous enforcement.”
The BizParentz Foundation, one of Hollywood’s leading child advocacy groups, also took part in the presser at the City Attorney’s office. “The most costly talent scams are aimed at parents of children who have little or no knowledge of how the industry works,” said BizParentz co-founder Paula Dorn. “The costs are great in dollars and in emotional fallout on the children and their families. The issue has been at the forefront of BizParentz education and support mission for many years, and victims have already benefitted from the support of the LA City Attorney’s office via enforcement and legislative efforts. We are excited to be a part of this enhanced education and enforcement effort.”