(CN) – Lady Gaga’s producer Rob Fusari owes the woman who discovered the pop star $6.6 million, plus half of any future money from Interscope and Sony, a federal judge ruled.
Wendy Starland sued Fusari back in 2010, claiming that he contracted with her to find and develop the “Strokes Girl” – i.e. an under-25 female equivalent to the lead singer of The Strokes, Julian Casablancas.
Fusari was in search of someone edgy, bold, confident and charismatic, that “you can’t take your eyes off of,” according to the complaint.
Starland said Fusari told her that the two of them would write songs for the singer, produce an album, and then use his team to “shop it around” to record labels and publishers.
“And if we can get her a deal, any revenues that result from that artist project will be split 50/50 between us,” Fusari said, according to Starland’s testimony.
Starland said she upheld her end of the bargain when she brought Gaga, still going then by her birth name Stefani Germanotta, to Fusari.
She sued when her share of the profits never materialized.
After a week-long trial in November 2014, a Newark federal jury ruled for Starland.
The jury awarded Starland half of $10,816,000 and half of the $590,112 paid to Fusari’s business manager, Sandy Linzer, an amount that totals more than $5.7 million.
As for future revenue reaped from the “artist project,” the jury said Starland deserves a fixed, one-time amount of $900,000 of the $1.8 million Fusari, or any of his companies, receives in record or merchandizing royalties over the next nine years.
Starland also won from the jury 50 percent of any future amounts Fusari, or any of his companies, receives from all other entities, including Interscope; Sony; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP); and the now defunct EMI recording company.
On Feb. 4, U.S. District Judge Jose Linares denied Fusari’s motion for remittitur and granted
Starland partial final judgment, finding the jury’s verdict neither “excessive” nor “shocking.”
The court brushed aside the claim that the $900,000 in royalties should be a future award.
“Plaintiff however argues that defendant had a choice to receive the relevant money in one lump sum or to have it paid over time and chose to have the money paid over time, therefore depriving the plaintiff of receiving her share now,” the unpublished ruling states. “Plaintiff argues she should not be harmed by defendants’ choice of payment. The court agrees and therefore the $900,000 sum shall be included in the judgment.”
The court also tossed aside Fusari’s claim that 95 percent of the $590,112 paid to Linzer covered litigation expenses and should be subtracted, leaving Starland $14,753, the ruling states.
“The jury found that none of the $590,112 was paid to Sandy Linzer in connection with the Germanotta litigation,” Linares wrote.
The judge later added: “The jury could reasonably have found, as it did, that the total $10,816,000 defendant received should be split 50/50 without any deductions for any music production that the defendant did without the plaintiff related to Germanotta. Based on the evidence presented, the jury could also reasonably find that just as plaintiff’s expenses in her search for the ‘Strokes Girl’ were never reimbursed, any expenses that defendant incurred were not subject to deduction.”
Breach of contract alone is not the type of wrongful act or fraud that would warrant the imposition of a constructive trust, according to the ruling.
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