Wednesday, October 24th, 2012...10:11 am

Entertainment Attorney’s Alleged Underhanded Dealings Cost Rocker a Multi-Million Dollar Contract

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By Olivia Langford

During the previous season of American Idol, management for Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler, Tenth Street Entertainment (TSE), hired West Hollywood entertainment attorney Dina LaPolt to negotiate Tyler’s return to the show for a third season.

LaPolt, who specializes in music law, allegedly botched the deal, worth an estimated $6-8 million. TSE filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging (1) breach of fiduciary duty, (2) breach of the duty of confidence, (3) intentional interference with contract, and (4) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. The complaint seeks damages of more than $8 million.

TSE claims LaPolt was disloyal and violated her fiduciary duties to Tyler and TSE by angling for her own career at her clients’ expense. Tyler’s managers believed his rising popularity on the show would enable them to renegotiate a more lucrative contract, which in turn would earn TSE a greater commission.

TSE alleges LaPolt trashed the management company and revealed highly sensitive information to American Idol, thereby breaching confidentiality and fiduciary duty. These dealings undercut TSE’s position in the negotiations and resulted in a new contract almost identical to that of last season. The complaint rather colorfully accuses LaPolt of selling out TSE and Tyler in order to gain more business referrals from American Idol. In fact, LaPolt has arranged to represent several American Idol artists since the conclusion of negotiations.

The complaint also charges that LaPolt disparaged TSE to Tyler and Eric Sherman, one of Tyler’s managers, which resulted in Tyler firing TSE in August 2011. LaPolt then represented Tyler in an agreement to pay a portion of his commission to TSE for two years and in negotiating a new management deal for Tyler with X1X Entertainment, Inc.

But in early 2012, TSE claims LaPolt terminated the payment of management commission to TSE, in what they call a “blatant act of interference.” In addition, she allegedly skimmed money off the top of the commission on Tyler’s touring revenue and kept it for herself, thus chopping the portion to be paid to TSE in half. TSE estimates to have suffered actual damages in excess of $2 million and are also demanding punitive damages sufficient to“make an example of” LaPolt.

If these allegations are true, LaPolt has engaged in very serious ethics violations, which I expect will be reviewed by the California Bar. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the suit will have on her contracts with other artists. It’s hard to imagine they would appreciate her lining her pockets at their expense.

Read the full complaint here.

Olivia Langford is an Editor for the W&M Sports and Entertainment Law Society. She can be reached at oplangford@email.wm.edu.

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