Johnny Depp Sues Longtime Talent Lawyer for Malpractice, Wants $30M in Fees Returned

Johnny Depp and Jake Bloom - Split - Getty - H 2017
Getty Images

Johnny Depp says his longtime talent lawyer Jake Bloom was collecting contingent fees without a proper contract, and he's asking the court to order he be repaid more than $30 million.

Depp claims Bloom and his firm "violated some of the most basic tenets of the attorney-client relationship." Specifically, he says defendants collected millions in contingent fees without a written contract in violation of California law, engaged in self-dealing and failed to disclose conflicts of interest.

The actor has recently cleared his slate of longtime reps, ending relationships with Bloom, agent Tracey Jacobs and, of course, ex-business managers Joel and Robert Mandel of The Management Group, who he's also suing. (Read more on that fight here.)

Depp also maintains that the Mandels, who are licensed attorneys, provided both legal and business management services — and claims Bloom knowingly, recklessly or negligently failed to disclosed years of misconduct by TMG.

"Defendants and TMG, working in tandem, deployed a 'fox guarding the hen house' approach, never disclosing to Mr. Depp either California's protective legal requirements for written contingency contracts or the outsized and unconscionable fees TMG paid to itself and Defendants, from Mr. Depp's funds, in violation of California law," states the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

Further, the actor claims his attorney introduced TMG to Grosvenor Park to secure a hard money loan for Depp — without disclosing that he had a relationship with the company's founder. The loan, through Grosvenor affiliate Tryon, was secured by Depp's residuals from Pirates of the Caribbean I-IV, Alice in Wonderland and Into the Woods.

"Defendants and TMG structured the loan — without the legally required disclosures to Mr. Depp — as a vehicle to provide themselves with immediate priority to millions of dollars of voidable contingency fees tied to the success of Mr. Depp's film residuals (fees Defendants were not legally owed), all before Mr. Depp received a cent," states the filing. "[T]he loan prioritized payment of Defendants' and TMG's fees ahead of loan payments owed to Tryon, and regardless of whether Mr. Depp actually retained any of the loan proceeds."

In the three years following the loan agreement, Depp says he's earned $32 million in residuals but hasn't received anything because of the structure of the deal.

TMG contends that Depp was fully aware of the state of his finances, but the actor says he was often presented only the signature pages of documents and signed them assuming his advisers were protecting his interests. 

Depp also claims the defendants routinely submitted requests for expense reimbursement with "little to no supporting documentation" but were paid without question by TMG.

"Defendants never questioned TMG's financial management of Mr. Depp's affairs, or investigated TMG's explanation for the deterioration of Mr. Depp's financial position, as a reasonably competent lawyer would," states the complaint.

Depp is suing for breach of fiduciary duty, legal malpractice, unjust enrichment, unfair competition and two separate violations of the California Business and Professions Code. He's asking the court for a declaration that any purported contingent fee deal between himself and Bloom's firm is invalid, void and unenforceable and that he is entitled to disgorgement and restitution of all fees paid. 

Attorney Kurt Peterson, who is representing Bloom's firm in the matter, sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement Tuesday: “In light of the long-standing relationship between the Bloom Firm and Mr. Depp, the Firm is extremely disappointed that Mr. Depp has decided to file this lawsuit. The Firm disagrees with Mr. Depp and his counsel on the law and the facts, and intends to defend the lawsuit vigorously.”   

TMG declined to comment on the complaint, which is posted below.

Oct. 18, 12:15 p.m. Updated with a statement from an attorney for Bloom's law firm.