Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson has sued his former conservator Jerome Billet for more than $10 million alleging he failed to supervise the lawyers who handled his litigation against Irving Music over rights to his songs and the suit brought against Wilson by Beach Boy singer Mike Love.
The lawsuit also provides glimpses into the alleged back-room dealmaking in which attorneys for Wilson engaged while trying to resolve their client’s legal difficulties.
It also highlights the well-known incestuous nature of music industry legal eagles, who despite clear conflicts of interest, often refer cases to closely aligned law firms.
The lawsuit accuses Billet, a well-known trial lawyer with more than 30 years of experience, of breach of contract and fiduciary duty and conspiracy, among other claims. The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last week by Wilson’s current conservator, his wife Melinda.
The complaint alleges Billet knew or should have known that Wilson’s former lawyers (who are not named in the lawsuit) violated court orders by suppressing and destroying documents, lied under oath and hid key documents, and that Billet overcharged Wilson.
The lawsuit also claims Billet had knowledge of “$5,000 park bench payoffs by Wilson’s former attorneys and perjury from the witness stand.”
These acts all stemmed from the conduct of Billet and attorneys for Wilson during Wilson’s lawsuit against A& M Records and Love’s subsequent suit against Wilson. Both suits involved ownership rights to the majority of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits.
During these actions, Wilson was repped by attorneys James Tierney and James Little, though neither lawyer is named or identified in the complaint.
The complaint said Wilson has paid more than $6 million in legal fees over the past seven years, which included more than $3 million to defend the singer-songwriter against claims brought by Love.
The suit asserts that because of Billet’s negligence and conflicts, Wilson could have settled the Love lawsuit for a fraction of the $5 million and 50% of song ownership rights that was agreed upon.
The suit asserts Billet, among other things, paid the former lawyers more than $4.45 million and then retained them to defend the Love suit, despite the fact that they would be key witnesses whose conduct would be major issues in the litigation.
Billet also allegedly knew the lawyers were engaging in misconduct that would lead to sanctions, but made no reasonable effort to settle the case while charging Wilson as much as $300 an hour supervising the litigation, the suit said.
Billet could not be reached for comment.
The complaint seeks damages for the $5 million judgment, the $4.45 million paid to lawyers and unspecified punitive damages.