Richard Dreyfuss has filed suit against The Walt Disney Co., in a case that takes aim at studio accounting practices by claiming that Disney is refusing to allow a firm that specializes in profit participation audits to examine the company’s returns from “What About Bob?”
Dreyfuss is joined in the lawsuit by Christine Turner, who is seeking an audit of the returns from “Turner and Hooch,” which was produced by her late husband, Raymond Wagner.
Dreyfuss and Turner each claim that Disney is refusing to allow their chosen auditor, Robinson and Co., to conduct the examination, on the grounds that it must be done by a “national firm of reputable CPAs, the selection of which is subject to [Disney’s] approval not to be unreasonably withheld.”
The plaintiffs contend that the nationally recognized big four accounting firms don’t have experience in studio audits, while a handful of smaller and more specialized firms like Robinson do. They point out that Robinson principals do have experience at Big Four firms, as well as at the studios.
“Disney has not stated any basis for its conclusion that Robinson Inc. is not a nationally recognized firm,” the suit states. “Apparently no one can leave a ‘nationally recognized firm without running afoul of Disney’s policy regarding the same.”
The suit adds, “What Disney has done is reduce an already very small pool of auditors to a nearly non-existent puddle, and made it exceedingly difficult for profit participants to retain the best possible representation and be paid the monies they are due.” The plaintiffs also note that Robinson, working on contingency, is a “particularly effective and aggressive auditor” usually able to recover large sums for clients.
The suit claims breach of contract, unlawful interference in the pursuit of a lawful profession and interference with contractual relations, among other claims. Robinson and Co. also is a plaintiff in the suit, which was filed by Neville Johnson, Douglas Johnson and Jordanna Thigpen.
The lawsuit also takes aim at studio accounting practices generally, noting the long queue it takes to examine a studio’s books. The suit claims that the wait at Disney is three years, calling it “inexcusable and outrageous.”