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Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist who was once deemed by Time magazine to be one of the 100 most influential people in the world, is being sued for breaching a contract to cooperate on a documentary inspired by his best-selling book, The End of Poverty.
The lawsuit comes from two film producers, Patrick Aluise and Loren Duffy, who say they purchased an option on the book for $50,000 and spent significant expenses developing it, but Sachs repudiated his alleged obligations.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the complaint, the film was to center on Sachs and his work in Africa, where the economist has been dealing with such issues as poverty, debt and environmental sustainability.
Aluise Entertainment says that in 2007, it exercised an option on the film and intended to make it. The production company says it hired Jonus Akerlund, who has won Grammys for his music videos, as director. Funding for the film and further help was being sought from various celebrities who have contributed to and spoken highly of Sachs’ work, including Brad Pitt and U2’s Bono.
But Sachs, who allegedly agreed to narrate the documentary, might have had second thoughts. According to the complaint:
“From the formation of the agreement through February 2011, AE made repeated efforts to obtain the cooperation from Sachs, to which AE was entitled under the agreement and which was necessary for the development and production of the film. These efforts were constantly met with delay, deflection to other people and, ultimately, silence. After numerous efforts by AE over many years, in March 2011, Sachs finally repudiated his obligations under the agreement in a letter from his attorney. As a result, AE lost not only the money it had already spent in its efforts to make the film but lost the opportunity to make the film at all.”
Now that the option to turn The End of Poverty into a documentary has expired, the plaintiff says it has lost funding, including from River Road Productions.
“When Sachs failed to provide that cooperation, both Aluise and Duffy lost the nearly certain economic benefit they would have received under those producer agreements,” says the complaint. “Aluise and Duffy are entitled to be made whole for Sachs’s wrongful conduct.”
Sachs is being sued for breach of contract, promissory fraud, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and other claims.
We’ve reached out to the economist, and if we hear anything, we’ll update.
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