Former Republic Group president Charlie Walk has filed a $60 million lawsuit against New York City-based law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres (as well as attorney Marc Kasowitz) “for legal malpractice” centering on the allegedly “botched representation” that he received ahead of his departure from UMG.
For background, Charlie Walk served as president of Sony Music’s Epic Records between 2005 and 2008, before becoming president of Universal Music’s Republic Group in early 2013. But back in January of 2018, UMG indefinitely suspended the former Columbia Records marketing exec after sexual-assault and -abuse allegations were levied against him by one Tristan Coopersmith, who’d worked with Walk during his time at Sony Music (and specifically Columbia).
Multiple other women then came forward with sexual-misconduct allegations, and Walks says in the complaint that these accusers “were either disgruntled former employees or persons whose claims were demonstrably false.”
Nevertheless, the Boston University alumnus stepped down from his role as a judge on Fox’s The Four: Battle for Stardom “out of respect for the contestants, my fellow judges and everyone involved with the show.” Network higher-ups later terminated Walk’s contract, ostensibly because of the PR obstacles presented by the much-publicized sexual-misconduct allegations. But according to his suit against Kasowitz, Fox’s investigation of the misconduct claims turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
Then, following a separate investigation into the claims, UMG in March of 2018 acknowledged that it and Walk had “mutually agreed to part ways.” Walk’s LinkedIn profile shows that he didn’t accept a position at another label thereafter, instead founding a “global entertainment company” called Music Mastery in March of 2019.
Now, as initially mentioned, the 52-year-old former record-label executive has filed a $60 million lawsuit against Kasowitz Benson Torres and Marc Kasowitz, who founded the firm in 1993.
The complaint wastes little time in explaining that Kasowitz’s representation “had catastrophic results for Mr. Walk’s career,” which was bringing in “at least $3.5 million a year” prior to the sexual-misconduct allegations. Additionally, Charlie Walk says that he was in the process of negotiating a five-year, $20 million deal with Republic when the claims against him emerged.
According to the suit, Coopersmith was fired from Sony in 2005 “for performance-related issues” and, following this dismissal, “harbored a secret grudge against” Walk, which purportedly motivated her to make “inherently unbelievable allegations” on her now-defunct blog. Walk’s multimillion-dollar complaint also states that Coopersmith tapped the same PR firm that represents UMG “to promote and publicize her false accusations.”
Universal Music, in turn, “violated its own employment agreement with” Walk by publicizing the initial allegations made against him “within 24 hours of their being aired,” the plaintiffs continue. “The point here was for the public to associate Mr. Walk with Harvey Weinstein. Yet, the only reason this worked is because Kasowitz…passively cooperated with UMG.”
On this front, the plaintiffs reiterate “the accuser’s inherent lack of credibility” as well as the idea that UMG was contractually prohibited from terminating or threatening to terminate Walk over alleged misconduct that occurred while he was employed by a different company. Plus, Universal Music “was required to protect the privacy and confidentiality of all parties involved in any allegations of sexual harassment,” the suit specifies of the company’s written policy and employment agreement.
“UMG was also contractually required to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation of any harassment claims against Mr. Walk—that is, a bona fide investigation. UMG did the opposite. It accepted the false claims at face value because it was convenient to do so,” the lawsuit proceeds.
And when Charlie Walk “did press UMG for what it had learned from its investigation,” the suit reads, “UMG verbally spit back the easily discredited allegations by Coopersmith herself, with no reference to anything that supported them. This was just another way of UMG saying that it had found nothing to substantiate them.”
Bearing these points in mind, Walk maintains that he’d instructed Kasowitz “to clear his name,” including by emphasizing the results of UMG’s investigation into the allegations. But his counsel allegedly “pressed him to enter into a quick settlement with UMG in order to avoid further publicity.” (The terms of this “one-sided settlement agreement” were redacted from the complaint, though Walk “made a grand total of $19,000 in 2019,” and his 2018 earnings were redacted.)
“Kasowitz and the Kasowitz Firm negligently failed to assert clear-cut claims against a culpable party… they did not fulfill their most fundamental responsibilities to their client—informing him that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement. Instead, he was falsely told that he had no choice. His own lawyers set him up to be destroyed.”
Consequently, Walk is seeking $60,176,321.28 in damages, which he “would have been able to earn but for their malpractice,” per the lawsuit. Earlier this week, Taylor Swift and Evermore theme park dropped their lawsuits against one another, while Spotify settled litigation brought by Pro Music Rights and Sosa Entertainment.