After months of documents being kept under seal, the public will be able to see a little additional information about AMC Network’s agreements with CAA and client Frank Darabont involving mega hit The Walking Dead — which they are contesting at the New York State Supreme Court.
Over three years after The Shawshank Redemption director and his agency sued AMC over multi-million dollar profit participation disputes, Justice Eileen Bransten today provided line-by-line instructions about the information to disclose, and keep private, in exhibits before her. She also set June 9 for a hearing on both sides motions for a summary judgment, which could kick the case into high gear. Filings, potentially including unredacted material, are due by May 23.
Late last year, attorneys for Darabont, who was pay or play pink slipped from TWD in 2011, and CAA declared in a court filing in the highly contested suit that they are looking to get at least $280 million in damages from the cabler over TWD profits.
As they have in the past, AMC in particular wants to keep financial data, projections, and contract terms under wraps, saying that they are proprietary or highly sensitive. The justice agreed, for the most part, ordering that documents reveal percentage changes in pay or costs, as well as share ownership, but leave out dollar figures. In many instances chart headers and people’s names will be replaced by coded initials.
“You can’t tell what AMC’s thinking about the header ‘AR’,” the justice said. She added that “it would be too heavy handed that we don’t allow the public any [idea] what’s going on.” A lawyer for AMC said during the proceeding that some information should be excluded because it could “move the stock price.”
Then again, in the dense and more than an hour-long hearing Friday Bransten sharply challenged AMC’s use, in a summary judgment motion, of a quote from a deposition without making the entire deposition public. An AMC lawyer said that comments elsewhere in the document reflect on “a potential merger acquisition.”
“You’re the one choosing to do it,” she said. “That’s your problem, not mine.” She added that “I don’t think you need it.”
An AMC lawyer said that “a significant percentage of the [summary judgment] motion is predicated on the deposition testimony” — questioning whether the company would have enough time to reshape its argument.
She urged both sides to go over other disputed disclosures “with a fine tooth comb” and try to agree on a resolution.
Darabont was fired as TWD‘s executive producer in July 2011 after the first season had finished and Season 2 was underway, Darabont and CAA sued AMC in December 2013 saying that he had been wrongly terminated and cut out as a profit participant.
Aaron Marks, John Berlinski, and Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson’s NYC and LA offices are representing AMC; Bernstein and Nicholas Tambone of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella are handling things for Darabont and CAA, with his fellow attorneys Chad Fitzgerald, Aaron Liskin and Nicholas Soltman at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.