“Bones” stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, and author Kathy Reichs, have filed suit against Fox, claiming that the studio has cheated them out of tens of millions in profits from the series via self-dealing and misallocation.
Their lawsuit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, follows a complaint filed last week by executive producer Barry Josephson, contending that he was denied his share of profit participation.
The plaintiffs contend that 20th Century Fox Television “has engaged in a systematic and pervasive effort to cheat” them out of profits from the longest running drama ever broadcast by the Fox network.
A spokesman for Fox said they had no comment.
The most recent lawsuit claims that even as the series became more profitable for Fox, accounting statements issued by the studio “counter-intuitively shows plaintiffs falling farther and farther away from achieving profits.”
According to the lawsuit, Reichs, a forensic anthropologist on whose novels the series was based, was promised a 5% share of the profits for her rights as well as producing services. Deschanel and Boreanaz were entitled to 3% of the profits.
But the lawsuit claims that in 2010, shortly after the series fifth season finale, Reichs received a statement showing that she was almost $90 million away from receiving profit payments, while Borneanaz and Deschanel were nearly $100 million away from profits. They then sought an audit of the studio’s books.
The plaintiffs claim that Fox charged below-market rates in licensing the series to affiliates, reducing the pool of revenue available to profit participants. Although other studios arrive at an “imputed license fee” in situations where self-dealing can arise, the lawsuit contends that Fox set its license fees without ever consulting the plaintiffs. When Fox did engage with them for the fifth and sixth seasons, “it did so under the threat of cancelling the series unless plaintiffs accepted its non-negotiable license fee figure, and then concealed information about the true value of that figure.”
The suit also claims that an audit uncovered a practice where Fox packaged films and TV series together into a single license agreement. The result was that less valuable shows are allocated a greater share of the license fees than they otherwise would receive, while revenues are understated to the most successful series, more likely to have profit participants.
The plaintiffs also claim that Fox has withheld key documents and that the audit has uncovered “more than a dozen accounting errors, tricks and deceitful acts.”
The plaintiffs were represented by John Berlinski, Mansi Shah and Candace Frazier at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman.