APA Accused of Raiding Clients in Lawsuit From Commercial Talent Agency

Hollywood Sign 3 - H - 2015

Turns out CAA isn't the only agency in town with a claim another agency raided its clients.

In a complaint filed Monday, L.A. Talent, which represents clients for acting in commercials, accuses the Agency for the Performing Arts of poaching about 100 clients.

The agency claims APA raided its roster in July in order to launch a commercials department, which — according to the complaint — APA didn't have, while competitors (like CAA and UTA) did.

"Rather than make the investment in time and resources necessary to create a profitable business, APA decided to simply steal the business of another agency," states the complaint (read here). L.A. Talent says APA lured clients with the promise of access to the theatrical department (which counts Gary Oldman, 50 Cent, new Aquaman Jason Momoa and Ghostbuster Leslie Jones on the roster).

The allegations differ in several ways from the CAA-UTA dispute. (CAA sued UTA and two agents in April following the defection of about 12 agents, who brought with them clients including Chris Pratt and Will Ferrell). Where CAA's legal claims concern the agents themselves leaving, here the plaintiff does not object to an agent's exit, only alleging she induced talent to break contracts.

The agency claims Jenine Leigh (who is a defendant) worked there for over six years until L.A. Talent terminated her. When she found a new job with APA, and during her severance negotiations with her former employer, she started contacting "many dozens" of L.A. Talent clients with "aggressive pitches and untrue statements concerning L.A. Talent," states the complaint.

Per common practice, some of the plaintiff's former clients (none of whom are named defendants) did not have contracts with L.A. Talent. But intriguingly, other defectors' contracts apparently have gone missing.

"The agency contracts for many of L.A. Talent's biggest earners were simply missing from the filing cabinets where they belonged," states the complaint. That's because the person in charge of maintaining the files was Leigh, speculates the plaintiff.

The agency claims intentional interference with contract, arguing the unsigned clients had oral, express and implied contracts with L.A Talent. But "most of [the defecting] clients were under contract, although some of these contracts could not be located," states the complaint. The agency goes on to accuse APA of advising clients not under written contract with L.A. Talent or whose contracts could not be located to stop paying commissions to L.A Talent. 

Alexander Polyachenko of Bash & Polyachenko filed the complaint, which states other claims of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and unfair competition.

"APA has been in this business for 52 years. These allegations are frivolous and totally without merit," responded APA's spokesperson to The Hollywood Reporter.