EXCLUSIVE, updated with SAG-AFTRA statement: SAG-AFTRA is gathering documentation from dozens of former clients of talent agent Jordan McKirahan to support their claims that he failed to remit tens of thousands of dollars of commercial residuals they’re allegedly owed. The union pulled McKirahan’s franchise on April 19, shortly after holding a video conference with a dozen of his former clients.
The Los Angeles Police Department also is investigating claims against McKirahan and his agency.
In an April 26 email, SAG-AFTRA told the actors that they must submit proof of McKirahan’s “financial irregularities” no later than May 3 so it can “send the bond company a complete list of timely claims and supporting documentation.” After that, the union said, “We will not be able to process any claims on your behalf.”
McKirahan has promised his former clients that they will be paid what they’re owed and has apologized profusely for taking so long to send them their earnings. After waiting for months, however, seven former clients have filed crime reports against him with the LAPD’s Valley Financial Crimes division.
“They filed crime reports,” said LAPD Det. L. Bravo, who is heading up the investigation. “I have seven of them now. They are accusing Jordan of owing them money for their performances. I have to see if it’s a civil matter or criminal. It’s kind of a gray area because it’s being disputed.”
The case is ongoing, he said.
One of those crime reports was filed by actor Jon Eiswerth, who said that McKirahan owes him more $30,000 that he’d earned from work on a national commercial for Verzenio, a drug for treating breast cancer. According to Eiswerth and numerous other former clients interviewed for this story, the money McKirahan allegedly owes them was supposed to have been put into escrow accounts for them after the agent took out his 10% commission.
The intake officer who took his report on April 1 wrote: “The suspect owns a talent agency and handles the victim’s finances after he completes acting jobs. The suspect wrote the victim numerous checks from an account that had no funds.”
Eiswerth said he reached out to more than 40 of the agent’s clients after he got bounced checks and the runaround from McKirahan. He also alerted SAG-AFTRA to the problem in February. After rescinding the franchise of the Jordan McKirahan Talent Agency, the union posted on its website that “no member of SAG-AFTRA may hereafter engage, use or deal through this agency. All contracts in force between this agency and the members of SAG-AFTRA are ipso facto and without further notice terminated except that the agency may retain and collect any commissions earned under said contracts prior to the surrender of franchise.”
On Sunday, more than 20 McKirahan’s former clients met at the Trails Cafe in Griffith Park to share their experiences and discuss their next course of action.
“This entire experience has been an exhausting and emotional ordeal, and we are just beginning,” Eiswerth told Deadline. “I can’t begin to explain how that amount of money could have helped me this year. My wife and I had our first child this year, a beautiful baby girl, but having a child is expensive. I have had to take on three jobs just to make ends meet. If Jordan had paid me the money that I earned, I would have had much more time with my newborn baby this year. That is time I can never get back. As a struggling actor, I only get a few breaks a year. I’m no celebrity. I can’t make my living off of acting alone. So when I do book a job, that money is a blessing. Countless miles, dollars and days go into auditioning throughout the year. All worth it when we actually book a job. And now to lose that income is beyond comprehensible. Also the betrayal from someone you have trusted for eight years is heartbreaking. Jordan was a friend. I trusted him. I gave up moving to agencies who only wanted to represent me across the board, just so I could stay with Jordan.
“And I am not the only victim,” Eiswerth added. “Each week I meet new people who are also victims of the Jordan McKirahan Talent Agency. But we must endure. And the other actors I have met that were his clients are some of the most dedicated, talented and empowering people I have known in my 20 years of acting. I feel honored to band together with them as we seek a resolution to this matter.
“It’s all pretty crazy,” he said. “I was the one who contacted Jordan’s roster of approximately 100 clients on IMDb and discovered that he had been withholding payment to most of his clients for over a year. Bouncing checks, emails with excuses, all of his assistants quit a couple weeks ago, and now his phone voicemail box is full. I was with him for eight years, and it’s a shock to have discovered that in this past year he’s betrayed everything that he stood for. Before that, he was friendly and professional and stood by his word. This past year, all that changed.”
Actor Doug Haley, who was the best man at McKirahan’s wedding three years ago, said that the agent still owes him $29,000 from the residuals he was supposed to receive for a major tech company. He also filed a report with the LAPD. “I only got a $3,700 check for that session fee,” he said, but none of the $47,000 in residuals, minus taxes and commission.
“The payroll company sent me the statement about the checks that were sent to Jordan and proof that he had cashed them,” Haley said, providing Deadline with many of those cashed checks.
“It breaks your heart, especially coming from someone for whom who you were the best man at their wedding,” he said. “When Jordan was starting out as an agent, he was broke and couldn’t afford groceries, so I bought him a $100 Trader Joe’s gift card, and he broke down crying in my car with gratitude. Now, 12 years later, he’s taking the food out of my mouth. This is a completely different Jordan than the Jordan I knew.”
The intake officer who took his crime report on April 27 wrote: “Suspect is a talent agent who receives victim’s payment for his services. Suspect has failed to forward victim’s payment for his services.”
Phillip Garcia, with more than 30 national commercials, was perhaps the agency’s most successful client. He said that McKirahan owes him more than $10,000. “I feel lied to. I feel conned,” he told Deadline. “Something needs to be put in place so that this can’t happen again. It’s so sad.”
Garcia, who took part in the SAG-AFTRA conference call and attended Sunday’s gathering in Griffith Park, said, “It’s important for actors to pay attention to the checks that are coming in.” The union, he said, “was very quick to respond to me. They were very cordial and are trying to help out.”
The California Labor Commissioner’s office, which licenses talent agents, also has received a complaint against McKirahan. By law, talent agents in California have to post a bond as a protection for clients, but McKirahan’s $50,000 bond with the Tokio Marine HCC Surety Group was canceled in March due to a claim that was filed against the bond.
Paola Laverde, a spokesperson for the Labor Commissioner’s office, said the office’s Talent Agency Unit “received a cancellation for their bond on March 21. On the same day, the TAU mailed the agency a Bond Cancellation letter informing them they must reinstate their bond or file a new bond immediately. Jordan McKirahan has yet to renew or file for a new bond.”
Said Haley: “This should have never happened. I don’t understand how an agent who represents over 100 clients can have a bond of only $50,000. It blows my mind that one person can so easily do this, and that there aren’t better safeguards in place. We’re all only going to get pennies on the dollar. How is a bond only allowed to be $50,000? The bond should be over $1 million for all agencies.
“I am incredibly disappointed in SAG-AFTRA,” he added. “They didn’t offer any lawyers. They were sympathetic, but they didn’t step up to protect their members.”
SAG-AFTRA did not initially respond to a request for comment, but issued this statement Friday: “SAG-AFTRA does not comment on open investigations in order to protect our members’ long-term interests, except to note that the union will continue to be responsive to members’ concerns about this and all agency matters.”
“I’m also being told,” Haley said, “that prosecutors may not even prosecute because it’s up to the District Attorney to decide if the case is big enough and interesting enough. You would never think that’s an option, but it is.”
Paula Lucero, who said McKirahan owes her “tens of thousands of dollars” from session fees and residuals on two commercials, said that she got the “runaround” not only from McKirahan but from the Topanga Canyon Police Department as well when she and two other actors tried to file police reports on Monday. “This whole thing is a nightmare,” she said.
“Three of us went to the police, but since he hadn’t bounced any checks, they refused to take a police report because until he gives us a bad check or there’s proof. They said there’s no crime. The police said that if Jordan just owes me money and gives me the runaround, it’s not really a crime – it’s a civil case.”
One of the actors who accompanied her to attempt to file a police report, she said, is owed “around $18,000, and the other is owed $2,000.” She said that she now intends to file her report with Det. Bravo.
“I was one of his first clients,” she said. “I thought he was a friend.”
Like Haley, Lucero also said: “I have all the checks that he cashed from the payroll company, but the money is not there. It’s mindboggling. We were told that filing a police report is important for the case, but we keep hitting walls.”
Lucero added: “A lot of us are afraid that he may want to sue us for defaming him. We have very little hope of getting our money back, but we want him to be held accountable for what he’s done, and the institutions should be held accountable for how things are not being done.
“We all need to lawyer up,” she said. “We all want to get to the bottom of this. We definitely want to shine a light on this because we feel that no other actors should have to go through this. It’s awful. A lot of families have been affected by this. I had a baby last year, and a lot of us are working two or three jobs. I feel like our money should have been protected more.”
Actress Candice Ramirez said, “It’s been a real financial hardship.” She declined to specify how much money she’s owed by the agency, other than that it’s “in the tens of thousands of dollars.”
The intake officer who took her crime report on April 4 wrote: “Suspect is the owner of a talent agency and has knowingly given clients (victims) insufficient checks. He has also given false information regarding payment to victims or is unresponsive to their inquiries.”
Ramirez said she “got emails from Jordan saying: ‘We’re checking in on this. Our accounting department is new, and I have to train them. I’ll look into it and get it to your shortly.’ He put me off for a really long time. I started asking questions at the beginning of February until I left at the beginning of April.”
She said that she and the others are speaking out because “it’s important to speak about it publicly so that other actors are empowered to keep an eye on things that we wouldn’t have thought about before.”
She also took part in the meeting at Griffith Park and on the video conference with SAG-AFTRA. The union “has been really helpful,” she said. “To me, they’ve been very responsive.”
Joanna Bronson, another former client, said that McKirahan owes her $4,000. “This is a terrible situation,” she said. “Last week, he told me in emails that he’s going to fix this. I went to the office, but he wouldn’t ring me in.”
Several other former clients have given Deadline similar accounts. Deadline reached out to McKirahan but has not received a call-back.
On March 5, McKirahan sent an email to a client describing how his life had fallen apart as the result of a crumbling marriage and “crippling depression.” Here is the email in its entirety:
First, let me admit and apologize for my lack of reply and silence to your numerous emails inquiring about checks, among other items,” McKirahan told the actress. “Please accept my most sincere apology. We were clearly aware that our payments for various jobs were due a while back and that we did not remit these funds on time. There is no legitimate excuse we can offer and I am conscious of the fact regardless of the circumstances that caused this delay, on our end, is not your responsibility to fix, nor should any of your attempts to reach out to us should have gone unanswered.
I must also acknowledge, console, and own the inconvenience this must have caused you, and/or your family. I absolutely understand the implications of expecting funds on a specific day and how disruptive it may be to your day to day, when these funds are not received. I take full responsibility of that our payment was late; we did not fulfill our obligation and that is completely unacceptable.
I would like to take the opportunity to let you know why this happened. You deserve this. As you know, since April of last year, I have been in the process of getting through a divorce. This process has been the most painful and difficult experiences of my life. I realize my divorce is not related/tied to business matters, and I am in no way making excuses. It is only because of our personal relationship that I feel it necessary to finally be transparent with just how affected I have been.
Managing my personal life and balancing the agency have been a struggle and I have regretfully not balanced this transition as smoothly as I would have hoped for. I hope you understand why I am sharing these details. Again, this is no excuse, rather, me trying to give some context for what’s been occurring. I am committed to you, our relationship, and hope to one day regain your trust. In early May, 2018, I suddenly was in a position of operating a booming agency, on both coasts, by myself. Please know, while this occurred I worked every day to my max. I would come home and feed/play/wear-out my amazing dogs, work on selling our home and was lucky to fit in a shower once a week. I was broken. I was in survival mode and simply continued to push, while still attempting to meet my deliverables.
During this time, and without recognition, I had been battling crippling depression, and felt shattered, having lost 32 pounds in three weeks. For weeks I struggled to regain my appetite and battled insomnia; however; I kept pushing and fighting, all the while I had also been fighting to save and heal my marriage which was crumbling all around me. It quickly and unfortunately turned into a battle and was then forced into making some of the hardest choices, no matter how painful or time consuming.”
Please know that in no way have I ever meant to hurt you,” he told the actress. “It pains me to admit that I lost myself. Most importantly the communication skills that have never been an issue for us in the past have been an issue. I did not want to be seen as a failure to you. The clients, like you, are what got me out of bed every day. Focused. Driven. Successful. For the first three weeks in all of this chaos, I secured more accounts and revenue for the roster, alone, than we had done in the three months prior to all of this, when I had help. I was truly hustling. I wasn’t communicating.
With that said, I know how severe the lack of consistency has been in regards to remaining payments. This is not because payments were funneled through me, rather; I have just not been able to manage this growing business to the best of my ability as I have done in the last nine years of us doing business. That being said, JMTA is solid. We are making strides and have infrastructure in place now to ensure that this will never happen again and that we can take care of our talent as much as they deserve to be and that everyone is secure in the knowledge that we are here behind you, rooting for you, and will continue to make amazing leaps and bounds in all of our careers.
It is very important that you understand that JMTA is very aware that making all future payments as per our agreement is the only way to reestablish trust. I personally have let the team down, more importantly you down, and I deeply regret that. Please allow until 3/15, with strong intent for sooner, for us to make all appropriate payment and deliveries to you. Finally, if there is anything else that I can do to regain your trust or help you heal our relationship, please let me know. I assure you, I am back, day by day. I have achieved and implemented self-work, and prioritizing, but I assure you I am here for you and I am ready to bring us to the next level. I want to be the best. Again. I will continue to fight with you and will do right by you. I thank you for your loyalty.”
On April 4, she filed a police that claimed he’d “stolen” nearly $40,000 from her.