In late March, former Republic Group head Charlie Walk filed a more than $60 million complaint against law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres (KBT) for the allegedly botched representation he received before departing UMG. Now, the court has officially denied Walk’s motion to seal his settlement agreement with the Big Three record label.
To recap, UMG’s Republic Group indefinitely suspended Charlie Walk in January of 2018, after an individual named Tristan Coopersmith accused him of sexual misconduct. Significantly, Coopersmith and Walk had worked together not at Republic (or even a UMG subsidiary), but at Sony Music’s Columbia Records.
Other women then came forward with sexual-misconduct allegations against the five-year Republic exec Walk, who stated in his suit against KBT (as well as attorney Marc Kasowitz) that said accusers “were either disgruntled former employees or persons whose claims were demonstrably false.”
Even so, the Boston University grad Walk stepped down from his role on The Four: Battle for Stardom in the wake of the allegations, and Fox higher-ups later terminated his contract. And in March of 2018, following an investigation into the claims, UMG announced that they and Walk had “mutually agreed to part ways.”
But in his complaint, Walk – who said that he had pulled down “at least $3.5 million a year” prior to his departure from Republic and was in the process of negotiating a five-year, $20 million deal – relayed that Coopersmith had been fired from Sony in 2005 “for performance-related issues” and had “harbored a secret grudge against” him.
This secret grudge, Walk indicated, motivated her to make “inherently unbelievable allegations” on her now-defunct blog. Plus, the former Republic head specified that Universal Music had “violated its own employment agreement” by publicizing the misconduct claims against him “within 24 hours of their being aired,” in addition to failing to “conduct an impartial and thorough investigation.”
Building upon these points, Charlie Walk maintained that he’d enlisted KBT “to clear his name,” but that the 28-year-old law firm had instead “pressed him to enter into a quick settlement with UMG in order to avoid further publicity.”
The New York City-based entity’s attorneys “did not fulfill their most fundamental responsibilities to their client—informing him that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement,” Walk’s legal-malpractice suit continued. “Instead, he was falsely told that he had no choice. His own lawyers set him up to be destroyed.”
Also worth noting is that KBT (and specifically co-founding partner Daniel Benson) fired back against Walk’s “fictional” and “frivolous” lawsuit in an open letter late last month, demanding that the 52-year-old and his counsel withdraw the action.
“Kasowitz fully informed Walk of his options to settle or to litigate at all times during the representation,” the letter stated in part. “Contrary to your complaint, Walk was accused of misconduct he committed while employed at UMG, and UMG retained an independent law firm to conduct an investigation of those accusations.”
And as initially mentioned, the case’s presiding justice has formally denied Walk’s request to seal the settlement agreement at the center of the courtroom confrontation. The plaintiff, who said that he earned just $19,000 in 2019, “was paid approximately $1.7 million in connection with the termination of his employment from UMG,” legal documents reveal.
“Neither UMG nor Mr. Walk has a compelling interest in keeping the Settlement Agreement confidential,” proceeded Justice Andrew Borrok, acknowledging that the Vivendi-owned company had also sought to seal the document. “The interest of the victims of Mr. Walk’s alleged conduct and the public interest in how UMG addresses these types of allegations substantially outweighs any private agreement to the contrary.”
At the time of publishing, Charlie Walk and his legal team didn’t appear to have commented publicly on this latest development. Last week, “Catch & Release” artist Matt Simmons took legal action against Universal Music for allegedly breaching the terms of their worldwide licensing agreement by withholding royalty payments.