HOLLYWOOD — Just weeks after she exited Handprint Entertainment, Jennifer Lopez has filed a petition with the California Labor Commissioner against her longtime former manager, Benny Medina.
Petition accuses Medina of acting as an unlicensed talent agent by procuring employment for her. The remedy under California law is disgorgement of commissions paid in the prior year and voiding of the contract, which means fees still owed are not paid. Given Lopez’s multimedia talents, millions of dollars are at issue.
Lopez’s attorney, Barry Hirsch, said, “Jennifer wants the contract deemed void because Benny acted as an unlicensed talent agent and diverted and misappropriated monies belonging to her.”
Hirsch survived a recent housecleaning in which Lopez dismissed Medina and talent agent Patrick Whitesell of Endeavor. She then signed with CAA and management company the Firm.
Medina, who told Daily Variety that the two had been working to resolve their issues, was surprised by the suit. “After years of trying to develop this career, the accusations are very offensive and hurtful. It’s like being kicked in the gut.” Medina added that he would have to consult with his attorneys, but a countersuit was likely.
In a statement, Medina said, “It is unfortunate that Ms. Lopez is using a Labor Commission lawsuit as a means of mitigating her outstanding financial contractual obligations to my company and me. One would have hoped that two people who have worked so closely together for so long could have resolved any differences between them in a less confrontational and more private manner. Unfortunately, having worked with Ms. Lopez for years and being familiar with her tactics, I guess I should not be surprised.”
Petition alleges that Medina and Lopez operated under an oral agreement from 1998-2002 under which Medina acted as a de facto talent agent, in violation of the Labor Code. In 2002, they entered into a written agreement designed to conceal the talent agent/artist nature of the relationship.
Under the agreement, Handprint received 10% of gross earnings on entertainment activities; 15% on music, recording and publishing activities; and 10% on other activities, such as fashion. In addition, a producing bonus of 50% of the amount retained by Nuyorican, Lopez’s company, was to be paid to Handprint.
Among the projects Lopez claims were illegally procured for her were the film “Shall We Dance,” cosmetics for L’Oreal and appearances at events and parties.
Petition also claims that Medina prevented Lopez’s agents from communicating with her. In fact, when Lopez exited Endeavor in June, the agency released a statement that it was parting ways because it could no longer work with Medina.
Petition further charges that in the last 12 months, Handprint received fees in connection with Lopez’s activities in the entertainment industry, including a consulting fee in excess of $100,000 diverted by Medina to his company, Laughing Water Music, in connection with a clothing deal. Under California law, disgorgement is a remedy only for payments made in the past year.
Finally, the petition seeks the return by Handprint of any ownership interests, which apparently refers to perfume and clothing deals.