Music Producer Sues Former Attorney for $5 Million
(CN) - Media mogul Damon Dash wants his former attorney to pay $5 million for allegedly striking deals behind his back and ruining a lucrative album distribution deal with rapper Curren$y.
Dash and his companies, media collective DD172 and BluRoc Records, sued Janis Shen in New York County Supreme Court, claiming she not only swindled them out of a $15,000 retainer fee, but also ruined their lucrative deal with Island Def Jam to distribute Curren$y's third album, "Muscle Car Chronicles."
Dash, former CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, claims he had an oral agreement with the rapper, whose real name is Shante Franklin, to create three albums together: "Muscle Car Chronicles," "Pilot Talk I" and "Pilot Talk II."
Dash says he hired Shen to handle the legal releases, contracts, mechanical licenses and paperwork needed for each album. She was also supposed to execute a written agreement for the joint venture with Curren$y, according to Dash.
But in November 2010, Dash claims he discovered that Shen had arranged a deal with Dash's in-house producer, Ski Beatz, and Terri Walker and Trademark, two artists who were then in negotiations to produce albums with Dash.
The trio's collaboration was released and distributed by rival internet music producer iHipHop.com, according to the lawsuit.
"In orchestrating these third party deals, Shen represented to the subject artists that she was acting in her capacity as a legal representative of DD172/BluRoc," the complaint states.
As part of the deal, Ski Beatz allegedly agreed to provide iHipHop.com with 10 "working 'beats'" for just $5,000. Dash says he "was mortified by this news," given that the minimum market value for one beat by Ski Beatz was more than $5,000.
"It was Dash's belief that not only had plaintiffs been swindled by Shen with respect to the iHipHop deal, but that Ski Beatz in particular had been swindled by iHipHop and Shen," the lawsuit states.
Dash insists the iHipHop deal was possible only because he had introduced Shen to Ski Beatz, Trademark and Terri Walker. He accuses Shen of "[c]onverting, embezzling, and stealing" his intellectual property, and "capitalizing on plaintiffs' business relationships."
He says Shen's failure to complete the work he paid her $15,000 to do - specifically executing the written agreement with Curren$y - triggered a domino effect that nearly ruined the record label. He says the company "nearly shut down completely and was forced to operate without a place of business for over nine months."
With no written deal in place, Curren$y was able to strike an exclusive record deal with Warner Brothers Music Group, according to the lawsuit. This new deal barred Island Def Jam from distributing Curren$y's third album, "Muscle Car Chronicles," leaving the distributor's representatives so "outraged" that they cut ties with DD172 and BluRoc, Dash claims.
"Since the termination of the [Island Def Jam] distribution deal, plaintiffs' relationships in the recording industry have been severely strained and they have been unable to generate any significant profits herein," Dash and his companies claim.
He says the fallout expanded when Curren$y canceled a global tour to promote the first two albums just one week before it was scheduled to launch.
Dash claims his in-house drummer left and joined The White Stripes, and an up-and-coming artist named Stalley, who had committed to the tour and was in talks for a record deal with BluRoc, signed with another label following the tour's cancellation.
Dash says he finally decided to release a digital version of the third album on iTunes and other internet retailers, prompting cease-and-desist orders from Warner and Curren$y's lawyer, Nova Perry. Curren$y later sued Dash in Manhattan Federal Court.
Though the ongoing dispute has been "long, expensive, exhaustive, and embittered," the parties are trying to reach a settlement, according to Dash and his companies.
But in the meantime, they want Shen to pay them $5 million for all the damage she allegedly caused. She is accused of breach of fiduciary duty, attorney malpractice, breach of contract, tortious interference with contract and unjust enrichment.
Dash, DD172 and BluRoc are represented by John Fazzio of New York.