When Stars Sue Managers Over Money: Who Should You Believe?

Johnny Depp blames being broke on his former financial advisers, while Alanis Morissette's ex-business manager is behind bars. THR polled moneymen on whether Depp and Morissette or their reps should be in the clear.
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Johnny Depp, Alanis Morissette

Hollywood battles over money aren't new, but a slew of recent dust-ups between stars and the people they trust to handle their finances has cast a shadow on the business management industry. In 2017 alone, Johnny Depp filed a big-ticket lawsuit accusing The Management Group of fraud, while Alanis Morissette's ex-manager Jonathan Schwartz was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing millions from her and other clients. It's not a topic money managers love to talk about, but several of them did offer The Hollywood Reporter their thoughts — anonymously — and addressed how these recent scandals have impacted their own firms.

Nearly all the managers who responded say Schwartz deserved time behind bars, but most of them are on TMG's side in its fight with Depp. "Back in the day, you'd just get on the phone and say, 'Don't buy that island,'" says one manager. "Sometimes they'd listen, sometimes not, but it'd never turn into a lawsuit. Now it's become a culture of blame."

Depp says he's broke because TMG mismanaged his money and deceived him, while the firm says his excessive spending is the cause. "I can appreciate the dilemma that the business managers ended up in," says another manager. "Should they be liable? Fuck no. Most of the time it's obvious what's going on, but in this case, it's even more obvious what went on for years."

Some think Depp will end up cashing a large settlement check, with one moneyman saying these lawsuits happen when managers don't stand up to clients exhibiting risky behavior because they want to keep collecting fees. "I see that all the time, where you have clients that won't listen to you no matter what you say," says a manager. "Sometimes you have to say, 'Why do you need me in your life if you're not listening to what I'm telling you?'"

In addition to causing headaches, the scandals also are increasing the cost of doing business. "Professional insurance rates have gone up," says yet another manager. "I've never had a claim in 30 years. The insurance company said it's because of some of these things that have happened." 

This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.