1:24pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Writer Slams Packaging Practices Amid Lawsuit Against CAA
A writer suing CAA and claiming the agency gave his idea for a drama series about the U.S. Attorney General to a bigger client without paying him is defending his lawsuit — and he's attacking the practice of packaging in the process.
John Musero in March sued the agency, along with agents Andrew Miller and Leah Yerushalaim. He claims his agents failed to properly shop his pilot called Main Justice and later redeveloped it with Jerry Bruckheimer and writer client Sascha Penn without his knowledge and permission and sold it to CBS.
CAA in May asked the court to toss his complaint, calling it "fatally vague" and arguing Musero doesn't explain which ideas were misappropriated, which agreement his claims for breaches of confidentiality and contract are based upon or which conduct is attributed to each defendant.
On Tuesday, Musero's attorneys fired back, beginning with a reminder to the court that this dispute is set against a backdrop of the WGA's war with the major agencies over packaging before moving onto the merits of CAA's demurrer.
"Packaging fees often include large back-end profit participation, and can create a durable asset that pays in perpetuity even if a client leaves the show or the agency," writes Musero's attorney Stephen Doniger. "They thus put agents’ interests at odds with the interests of their packaged clients, and create a strong disincentive to push clients that are not packaged since packaged deals are so much more lucrative."
Doniger goes on to argue that his client has properly alleged breaches of contract and fiduciary duty for the purposes of surviving a demurrer.
"Defendants ignore that they were Musero’s agents, and that the understood (if not express) agreement between agents and their clients is that the agents will use the work given to them by their clients to secure compensation for their clients," writes Doniger. "The parties’ agency agreement, their conduct, and industry custom all evidence an agreement requiring Musero to be compensated if Defendants found a buyer interested in using the ideas disclosed in, inter alia, Musero’s Main Justice."
Doniger also argues that CAA's claim Musero made it impossible to understand who is being sued for what is a "baseless accusation."
"From CAA’s conflict of interest in representing both sides of deals to Miller and Yerushalaim’s failures in representing Musero, from Miller’s work on both Musero’s Main Justice and Bruckheimer’s Main Justice to CAA and Defendants’ packaging deals, the Complaint properly groups Defendants, allowing each Defendant to understand why they are part of this litigation," writes Doniger. "Thus, the complaint more than sufficiently alleges facts to state its three causes of action."
A hearing on the motion, which is posted in full below, is currently set for Aug. 5.