9:50am PT by Ashley Cullins
Johnny Depp Allowed "Whistleblower" in Business Manager Suit Despite "Perjury" Challenge
Johnny Depp can amend his lawsuit against his former business managers, a California judge has ruled. On Friday, the star was given the green light to add claims premised on information given to him by a business management firm's ex-employee allegedly fired for pointing out red flags in the handling of Depp's finances.
Depp first sued The Management Group and Joel and Robert Mandel in January. He claims they cost him millions in tax penalties and failed to pay back a $5 million bridge loan — which Depp says he didn't know about — that resulted in non-judicial foreclosure proceedings on his Hollywood Hills home. The managers countersued, claiming they did everything possible to rein in the actor's excessive spending.
In March, Depp's attorneys asked the court for permission to amend the complaint and add the testimony from an ex-TMG employee, Janine Rayburn. TMG opposed the motion, arguing that some of the new allegations are based on confidential information that should be sealed — and that Rayburn perjured herself during testimony by repeatedly denying that she had prior contact with Depp's legal team.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Teresa Beaudet disagreed in a tentative ruling that was accepted by both parties without argument Friday morning. "[Depp and his company] argue and show in their supportive declaration that the allegations contain critical pieces of information regarding wrongdoing by the [Mandels] which are central to several of the counts in the FAC, including a new cause of action," she writes. "The misconduct [Depp and his company] allege potentially raises a question of whether there has been, at the very least, a breach of fiduciary duty by Defendants to Plaintiff. It does not matter whether the new information gained supports an existing claim or a new one, as long as it can be adjudicated."
Beaudet also found there were no grounds to seal the testimony from Rayburn — even though she signed a confidentiality agreement.
"Although the Defendants state that the proposed redactions relate to 'private business information relating to the operations of TMG,' none of the allegations relate to trade secrets, proprietary protocols, or procedures of TMG, exposure of which would give a competitor an industry advantage," writes Beaudet.
The judge also wasn't swayed by arguments that Rayburn perjured herself. "They provide no statutory or jurisprudential support for the proposition that allegations must be sealed if they are based on misrepresentations under oath," she writes. "It is not appropriate for the Court to seal any allegation that a party argues is false or misleading; were the Court to do so, court proceedings would almost always be completely confidential and hidden from the public, as it is the very nature of litigation that the truth is contested. This result would clearly not be in the public interest."
During her deposition, Rayburn gave her opinion that TMG didn't make Depp aware of his finances and claimed Joel Mandel asked her to notarize the actor's signature when he wasn't present and asked her to alter a financial statement in connection with a bank loan. Rayburn also testified that she overheard a conversation among Mandel, Depp's sister Christi Dembrowski and attorney Jake Bloom about how they might get the funds to cover his expenses.
Depp's attorney Adam Waldman sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement Friday.
"We are gratified by the Judge's decision to unseal the testimony and supporting documents of the whistleblower who managed Mr Depp's day-to-day affairs for the Mandels for over two years," he says. "Having failed to conceal from the public whistleblower testimony that reveals some of the egregious misconduct Mandel asked her to commit on Mr. Depp's account, the Mandels now predictably focus their efforts on smearing their former employee, just as they have attempted to smear Mr. Depp."
Meanwhile, TMG claims Rayburn never had a high-level role on Depp's account and was not included on any communications between Depp and Mandel.
"Johnny Depp and his counsel know that Janine Rayburn is a serial liar who perjured herself during her deposition who also lied on her résumé when she applied for a job at The Management Group," said a TMG spokesman. "Rayburn only worked at TMG for a brief time and was fired seven years ago. Rayburn fully admitted that she has no idea what conversations took place between Depp and TMG regarding Depp’s financial situation. We welcome the opportunity to further question Ms. Rayburn in Court, exposing her many lies."
It's worth noting, Rayburn also testified that after leaving TMG she went to work for GSO. There, she reported to Jonathan Schwartz, who was recently sentenced to six years in prison for embezzling millions from clients like Alanis Morissette to fund his gambling addiction. She said she cooperated with investigators and was not accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the incident.
Rayburn's attorney sent THR a statement Friday afternoon: “Janine Rayburn has worked in business management for over 30 years. She is beloved by her clients and works tirelessly for them. She had a legal obligation to appear at her deposition in the Johnny Depp v. TMG case and she truthfully answered all questions that were put to her. Her testimony speaks for itself and Ms. Rayburn will have no further comment on this matter.”
Depp is also represented by Matthew Kanny and Benjamin Chew of Manatt Phelps & Phillips. TMG is represented by Michael Kump and Suann MacIsaac of Kinsella Weitzman.
May 26, 4:55 p.m. Updated with a statement from Janine Rayburn's attorney and context concerning her testimony about GSO.