5:05pm PT by Eriq Gardner
WME Gives Its Side of Terry Crews Story in Assault Lawsuit
WME has submitted its response to Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews, who alleges having his private parts grabbed by agent Adam Venit at a Hollywood party in 2016. In the new court papers submitted Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the agency disputes turning a blind eye to the incident. In fact, WME boasts it acted "decisively."
Crews first told his own story in tweets, and later, in a lawsuit against Venit and WME in December.
According to Crews, he complained to his own agent about what happened, only to see WME take no immediate action. The actor alleges that company culture encourages WME agents to act aggressively, and that the agency ignored Venit's "long history of bizarre behavior" because of the agent's success in representing A-list clients like Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman. Ultimately, Venit did get a demotion and a one-month suspension when Crews went public. But the actor frames this as nothing more than a slap on the wrist and claims he was pressured to stop talking about the assault. Read more about Crews' story here.
WME has stayed largely silent on the matter in the past six weeks, but is now fighting the allegation that it has ratified Venit's conduct. So here is the agency's version of what occurred.
"The facts are these: The day after the alleged incident, Mr. Crews mentioned it to no one at WME other than his agent, who nevertheless immediately raised it with Mr. Venit," states WME's Answer. "That same day, Mr. Venit called Mr. Crews and apologized. Mr. Crews accepted the apology and then told the only two WME employees to whom he had spoken about the incident that everything was okay. That was the last mention Mr. Crews made of the incident to anyone at WME for nearly 18 months — during which time he remained a WME client. That is no surprise since, as Mr. Crews admitted in his later Tweets, he had 'decided not to take it further' and 'let it go.'”
WME is represented by Steven Marenberg and Robert Schwartz at Irell & Manella, who explicitly point out that Crews never contacted WME's leadership before deciding to go public during the #MeToo phenomenon. By doing so, they write, Crews "equated himself with the women and men who have been forced, sometimes repeatedly and over an extended period, to submit to sex or endure sexual harassment to keep their jobs or advance their careers, while the perpetrators and others who knew about it looked the other way."
That's an unfair comparison, WME implies.
"In contrast, the response of WME’s senior leadership, upon learning that Mr. Crews had not 'let it go' and had accused one of its agents of the conduct alleged here, was both swift and serious," states the Answer. "They quickly contacted Mr. Crews and expressed their concerns. They asked Mr. Crews to meet with them. He accepted. At those meetings, WME encouraged Mr. Crews to tell them everything that had happened, to be as open with the public as he wanted, and to propose whatever form of resolution he thought was justified. Shortly thereafter, WME suspended Mr. Venit — without pay — for one month and dramatically demoted him, by stripping him of his title and position as head of the Motion Picture Group."
This response is the "exact opposite" of ratifying Venit's conduct, continues WME, adding, "At the appropriate point, WME will present these and other facts to the Court for resolution because WME’s acts should not and do not create any liability to Mr. Crews. To the contrary, those acts demonstrate that WME decisively addressed and punished the conduct Mr. Crews alleges that Mr. Venit engaged in, bar any assertion that WME 'ratified' the conduct, and thereby absolve WME of liability. For these reasons, and until the Court hears all of the evidence, it should not accept Mr. Crews’ allegations against WME."