This article was corrected on Sept. 24, 2002.
Marcie Wright, owner and principal of the Wright Concept, a boutique literary agency, was released on her own recognizance Monday after pleading not guilty to grand theft and fraud charges.
Wright had spent the weekend in the Burbank jail after she was arrested at her home Saturday on charges related to an alleged embezzlement of more than $160,000 from former client Robert Kuhn, whose credits include co-writing “Mickey Blue Eyes.”
Wright’s arrest stemmed from a police investigation begun in May after a tip from Kuhn. Separately, Kuhn filed a civil complaint against Wright on July 31.
Wright’s criminal attorney, William Kroger, told Daily Variety that he had no idea what spurred the Burbank police to arrest and charge his client. He added that any financial inconsistencies could be explained by unwitting accounting errors by Wright’s bank.
The 17-year-old Wright Concept also reps Marc Cherry, whose credits include the TV series “Golden Girls,” and novelist and screenwriter Don Mankiewicz.
The Kuhn complaint claims Wright’s business practice was “to wrongfully retain monies on behalf of their clients and to use those monies for their own purposes.”
Payment to agent
According to the complaint, Kuhn and Wright agreed that all third-party payments for his work would be made directly to Wright, who would then deposit payments into her client trust account and then distribute the payments after deducting a 10% commission.
Complaint also asserts Kuhn repeatedly told Wright during spring and summer 2001 that he was owed $150,000 for a Castle Rock project.
Wright told Kuhn she had spoken repeatedly to Jess Wittenberg, Castle Rock’s head of business affairs, about the problem. However, when Kuhn called Wittenberg directly last November, the writer discovered that not only had Castle Rock sent the check to Wright 13 months before, but he had not spoken to her in months, the complaint says.
Wright then confessed to Kuhn she had improperly retained the $150,000 and did ultimately repay the money, according to the complaint. However, she repeatedly told Kuhn that she had not retained any other funds, it adds.
Kuhn, however, made a careful study of his records to see if there were any other potentially AWOL payments, complaint continues, and that in April, he discovered a final payment of $87,500 was missing in connection with the DreamWorks project “Shackled.”
The complaint states that after Kuhn spoke to a DreamWorks accountant, he found that not only was the check sent to Wright in July 1999, but in August 1999 DreamWorks had made another payment of $75,000 for a script polish.
In July 1999, according to the complaint, Wright told Kuhn that the studio wanted a “quick polish” on “Shackled,” and it expected him to do it at no charge “as a courtesy.” Kuhn agreed to do so and never was told of any additional payment.
The complaint also states that Wright “suppressed this information with the intent to defraud plaintiffs and to induce plaintiffs, among other things, to continue to abuse the services of defendants.” Kuhn is represented in his suit by Allen B. Grodsky.
On Sept. 3, Wright’s civil attorney, John Blue, filed a cross-complaint denying all material allegations in addition to denying that Wright owed Kuhn any additional funds.
Wright also claimed that between Sept. 1, 2001, and Aug. 1, 2002, Kuhn received $525,000 in compensation, of which she was owed 10%.
Kuhn, whose credits also include “The Cure,” was represented by Wright from 1989 through November 2001. He is now managed by The Firm.
Complicating matters further, Kuhn and Wright were also, at one time, close friends — so much so that Wright acted as minister at Kuhn’s marriage to former TV writer Sheila Barnes in April 2001. (Wright is licensed by the Internet-based Universal Life Church to perform such ceremonies.)
The criminal charges could also impact whether Wright and her husband Peter Wright, who jointly holds the agency’s license with Marcie Wright, can continue operating as talent agents.
David Gurley, staff counsel to state Labor Commissioner Arthur Lujan, told Daily Variety the Wrights have been operating without a state talent agent license since it expired Sept. 9.
The Wright Concept has been licensed since 19xxx85, but on three prior occasions the shingle failed to renew the license for up to five months at a time.
Gurley said that if the state were to receive an application for license renewal from the Wrights, it would not be routinely renewed pending an internal investigation. He also noted that any conviction of a license holder for a crime of moral turpitude against a client would be grounds for immediate revocation of their license.
Callers to Wright’s Burbank office could not leave messages on Monday because the voicemail was full.