3:51pm PT by Rebecca Sun
Ex-ICM Partners Agent Sues for Defamation Over Defecation Rumor
Former ICM Partners motion picture co-head Spencer Baumgarten, who was terminated from his role in early October, is suing the agency.
Along with former chief human resources officer Cindy Ballard, who resigned two weeks ago, ICM is being accused of whistleblower retaliation, defamation, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.
In his complaint, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Baumgarten says that he was "humiliated and mortified" in August when Ballard called him to inquire whether he defecated on the floor of a gender-neutral bathroom in the agency's New York office. According to the complaint, Baumgarten stated, "This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."
A few days after the meeting with Ballard, Baumgarten was called into a meeting with agency managing director Chris Silbermann where he was told he was being let go. "I've been wanting to have this conversation," said Silbermann, according to the lawsuit. "We're 16 months out on your contact [sic]. It is just not really working. … I want to give you enough time to help you transition."
Baumgarten was hired in 2016 from CAA, where he had represented such high-profile directors as Jon Favreau, Gore Verbinski, Zhang Yimou and John Woo. Only Woo eventually followed him to ICM. After the conversation with Silbermann, Baumgarten says he was repeatedly urged by agency execs to come up with a transition plan and a schedule for his exit.
Meanwhile, despite Baumgarten's firm denial, and despite an agency assistant being in the room during his video conference with Ballard, he says that the defecation rumor continued to spread around the agency over the next month. A week after Baumgarten complained to ICM general counsel Rick Levy about the matter and said he would consult an attorney, he was terminated for good.
On Oct. 2, ICM sent a memo informing staffers of Baumgarten's departure:
Spencer Baumgarten is no longer with the agency. We thank him for the contributions he made and wish him the best going forward.
ICM Partners said that it does not comment on pending litigation.