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La La Land Composer Justin Hurwitz Sues WME for Breach of Contract and Fraud

January 10, 2022 10:44 | By
La La Land

Image via Lionsgate

At night, Los Angeles may very well be the City of Stars, but come sunrise, it turns into the City of Lawsuits, and another juicy one was just filed by La La Land composer Justin Hurwitz against his former talent agency WME and its production arm Endeavor Content.

At the crux of the suit is La La Land in Concert, a touring “live-to-film concert” featuring Hurwitz’s music from the movie.

Hurwitz’s attorneys, Bryan Freedman and Tamar Yeghiayan, filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, alleging that “WME had cynically concocted an illegal scheme, whereby its fixed profit from La La Land in Concert was completely out of line with industry standards for talent agencies.” The civil complaint further alleges that Hurwitz’s own WME reps scammed him out of conducting fees so the agency could “secure the license for the tour of La La Land in Concert — only to self-deal by competing directly against Hurwitz for the profits from the tour.”

Alleging breach of contract, negligence, and fraud, the suit claims that WME rushed to “transfer its license for La La Land in Concert to Endeavor Content, its newly created subsidiary, to try to hide its clear breaches of its fiduciary duties. Hurwitz never consented to the secret transfer to Endeavor Content, which at all relevant times was wholly owned by the same parent company.”

Essentially, Hurwitz is alleging that his WME reps had a conflict of interest. The agency has since been forced to divest itself of Endeavor Content in the wake of the WGA’s war on agency packaging, with South Korean entertainment conglomerate CJ ENM poised to buy 80% of Endeavor Content for nearly $1 billion.

“WME cynically and systemically entered into secret agreements concerning its client without its client’s knowledge or consent, after he had entrusted WME, his agency, to look out for his best interest and to help maximize his potential compensation. Instead, Hurwitz discovered that WME had been deceiving him – not only pocketing what should have been his earnings but also lying to his face about it,” Hurwitz’s lawyers allege in the 22-page suit.

Justin Hurwitz

Image via Suzanne Hanover/Universal

“To assist with this process WME even went so far as to create multiple ‘subsidiaries’ to hide its blatant conflict of interest with its clients, and eventually landed with a ‘subsidiary’ known as Endeavor Content, LLC,” reads the composer’s complaint.

According to the filing, “this ‘subsidiary’ was formed for the sole purpose of enabling WME to hide money from its clients and routinely misappropriate millions of dollars from them. In fact, so controversial was this sham ‘subsidiary’ Endeavor Content for its ongoing cover-up of WME’s breaches of fiduciary duties, that, under extreme pressure by the Writers Guild of America and a well-publicized settlement, it has now been put up for sale. But that cannot be the end of this matter: it is now time for WME to acknowledge the facts that are plain for all to see and to belatedly return its ill-gotten gains to its clients-turned victims.”

“These claims are without merit and WME intends to vigorously defend itself,” the agency told Deadline, which broke the news of the lawsuit on Monday.

Hurwitz reportedly asked WME multiple times to disclose its profits on La La Land in Concert and the agency refused. When he finally discovered how much WME was making off the show, he sought to renegotiate a new deal, though he was unable to come to an agreement with his own agency following lengthy negotiations.

Frustrated, Hurwitz reached out to WME boss Ari Emanuel about the troubling situation in February 2021, only to have Emanuel allegedly claim that Hurwitz would never get the same favorable terms on La La Land in Concert that he was already getting on other live-to-film productions. When WME continued to admit any wrongdoing, and Hurwitz indicated he wouldn’t stay silent or participate in a cover-up, Emanuel reported told the composer that he’d no longer be able to work with “any of my companies” and canceled a scheduled call with Hurwitz, who subsequently signed with CAA.

La La Land in Concert continues to be booked worldwide, but Hurwitz claims he hasn’t received any payments since leaving WME, even under the less-than-favorable terms outlined in his initial agreement with the agency.

We don’t see too many below-the-line lawsuits like this one, so stay tuned to see how it plays out.