6:00pm PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Two Wayans Brothers Sue New York Law Firm Over Alleged Unfair Charges
There's nothing funny about a new lawsuit from Keenen Ivory Wayans and Shawn Wayans in which they allege they’re being scammed for tax law services by lawyers not licensed to practice in California. The comedic siblings filed their claims against the New York law firm S&E Azriliant PC and its principals Sidney and Evan Azriliant in a Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.
The brothers — prolific members of a funny family with Marlon, Damon Sr. and New Girl's Damon Jr. whose work together includes the Scary Movie franchise and the sketch comedy show In Living Color — allege that they were approached in 2005 by Evan Azriliant, the CEO of the firm, who offered to provide them legal services with regard to their business and tax affairs.
The Wayans siblings agreed. But what Azriliant and his firm are said to have done instead was to form a group of limited liability companies and other business entities that “were neither necessary nor appropriate for Wayans’ purposes and were not in the best interest of Wayans.” The Azriliants — Sidney is the president of the firm — didn’t have the Wayans’ approval or authorization to create those business entities, the complaint alleges.
In fact, the brothers claim the Azriliants “formed the entities for the purpose of enabling [the plaintiffs] to charge more money to prepare taxes on on behalf of Wayans." That's a breach of fiduciary duty and of the standard of care, the Wayans claim (though those aren't the precise causes of action).
The punchline is, neither of the Azriliants are licensed in California, the complaint alleges.
As the Azriliants demand the Wayans pay up for their services, to the tune of $42,025, the Wayans seek declaratory relief from the court that they don’t have to pay, given the circumstances. The plaintiffs are represented by Kevin Shenkman and Mary Ruth Hughes of Shenkman & Hughes.
There’s one unusual feature to their complaint: It says that S&E Azriliant’s corporation status was dissolved by proclamation (which is to say, by state of New York and without the firm’s request) in January 2011. The firm is still doing business, and hasn't yet responded to THR’s request for clarification regarding its corporation status. Shenkman tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Whether that has legal significance in the case will be determined as the proceedings go on."
The firm has declined to comment on the case.