DreamWorks Settles Animators' Antipoaching Suit for $50M

Shrek Dreamworks Still - H 2014

Shrek Dreamworks Still - H 2014

DreamWorks is the latest studio to bow out of an antipoaching fight with VFX workers — and is paying $50 million to do it, according to a Monday court filing.

The legal battle began in 2014, when a former DreamWorks employee sued, claiming a gentleman's agreement among heads of the major animation studios to not solicit each other's employees amounted to an illegal antipoaching pact.

Studios have been settling one by one, after the plaintiffs have repeatedly cleared hurdles in their path to trial — including beating a motion to dismiss and becoming a certified class.

According to the Monday filing, the $50 million is about 39.3 percent of the damages the plaintiffs' expert attributed to DreamWorks. In arguing for the court's approval, the studio points out that its percentage of damages is higher than that of Sony and Blue Sky who have already settled. In July, the court granted preliminary approval of a combined $19 million settlement offer from those studios. 

As part of the deal, DreamWorks has agreed to help authenticate its own documents and answer reasonable questions, but will not voluntarily produce any employee to testify at trial.

In August, an appeals court rejected a bid for interlocutory appeal from DreamWorks and Disney. The studios had asked the court in July to send the fight to the 9th Circuit before it goes to trial at the district court level.
It remains to be seen if Disney will follow DreamWorks, and the others, and offer a settlement.