Magazine article Variety

Caa V. Uta Opening Rounds Get Ugly

Magazine article Variety

Caa V. Uta Opening Rounds Get Ugly

Article excerpt

The legal battle between CAA and UTA over the agent defections that rocked the talent representation biz in March is still in the earliest phase of discovery, and already getting nasty.

Sparring between the lawyers in the suit filed on the heels of the March 31 "midnight raid," as CAA has described it, has become testy enough that one of the three depositions taken so far had to be conducted in front of a judge, by order of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart Cole. Cole is presiding over the case unfolding at the Santa Monica courthouse.

CAA's civil lawsuit names as defendants UTA and two of the five agents who led the exodus of more than a dozen CAA agents to UTA in March and April: Gregory Cavic and Gregory McKnight. The other three - Jason Heyman, Martin Lesak and Nick Nuciforo - had contracts with CAA that called for disputes to be handled through arbitration. Richard Chernick of arbitration service Jams has been set to preside over that private proceeding.

The lawyers will go before Judge Cole on July 20 for a case management conference. Focus largely will be confined to procedural matters such as hearing dates and the timing of document exchanges and depositions. The first hearings on UTA's challenges to CAA's lawsuit, filed April 2, are scheduled for Dec. 11 and 18. Leading the charge for CAA is Proskauer Rose's Anthony Oncidi. Bryan Freedman of Freedman and Taitelman is steering the case for UTA. (Freedman and Taitelman represents Variety's parent company Penske Media Corporation.)

The crux of CAA's argument against Heyman, Lesak and Nuciforo is that the three were under contract to the agency, and had no right to leave. For Cavic and McKnjght, CAA asserts that they were part of a conspiracy along with the other three to interfere with CAA's business, and that conspiracy amounted to a breach of the employees' fiduciary and loyalty obligations to their employer. Although Heyman, Lesak and Nuciforo are not defendants in the civil lawsuit, they are referenced throughout the complaint's conspiracy narrative.

UTA to date has mounted two counterattacks. For the trio under contract, lawyers have asserted that those agreements were unenforceable because they had all worked for the agency for more than seven years. And UTA lawyers have scoffed at the notion that Cavic and McKnight had any fiduciary or loyalty obligations to CAA.

The litigation began in earnest on May 12 at the Century City offices of Freeds man and Taitelman, when CAA president Richard Lovett sat for the first deposition in the case. …

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