Phillip Phillips, Season 11 American Idol winner, has filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner claiming that his management contract with 19 Entertainment, the show’s developer and co-producer, violates the state’s Talent Agencies Act. Phillips is the latest in a long list of performers who have sought to invalidate their management deals on the grounds that their personal managers procured employment for them in violation of the TAA, which states that only licensed talent agents can solicit employment for performers.
According to the complaint (read it here), 19 Entertainment “has repeatedly violated the Talent Agencies Act by attempting to procure and actually procuring employment for (Phillips),” including his appearances on Late Show With David Letterman, Today, Ellen, and Jimmy Kimmel Live and appearance at sporting corporate events.
One of the examples cited in the complaint alleges that 19 Entertainment asked him “to perform without compensation in a live show promoting the company JetBlue on February 18, 2013, and to participate in other aspects of a promotion for JetBlue. In response to (Phillips’) questions about why this deal would make sense, 19 admitted the deal was being entered into in exchange for JetBlue’s support for the 2013 American Idol Live Appearance Tour. Since (Phillips) was not performing on the 2013 Idol Tour, the only conceivable purpose for Respondent booking the performance was to help the struggling finances of Respondent’s Idol Tour.”
The complaint also alleges that 19 Entertainment “has repeatedly withheld material information from (Phillips) regarding important career matters,” claiming that the title of his most recent album “was decided without (his) approval and then announced in the press without his even being given advance notice.”
In a statement, Phillips said he was grateful to Idol but added, “I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with.”
The complaint adds: “Through a complex series of related companies and contracts, 19 and various affiliated entities have acted as (Phillips’) personal manager, music publisher, merchandise company, and record label. In disregard and contravention of the fiduciary duties applicable to its role as personal manager, 19 has constantly manipulated (Phillips) into accepting jobs and entering into other transactions that were for the benefit of 19 and its affiliated companies rather than for (Phillips). … This case presents exactly the kind of situation that the Act absolutely forbids: a purported artist manager and its related entities openly operating as an unlicensed talent agency.”
A spokesperson for 19 Entertainment flatly denied the allegations. “We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career,” the spokesperson told Deadline. “We have always acted in the best interest of Phillip. We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”
Phillips’ attorney, Howard King, told Deadline: “Phillip appreciates the opportunity provided to him by American Idol and always expected the producers to share the rewards of his subsequent success. However, he never anticipated that the producers would favor their own interests above his career or commit egregious violations of the California’s Talent Agencies Act. Thankfully, California has a long history of protecting artists from being victimized by people illegally operating as de facto talent agencies.”