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Charlie Walk accuses Universal of exploiting “false allegations” of sexual harassment to push him out, in explosive lawsuit against his former lawyer

By | Published on Friday 26 March 2021

Charlie Walk

Former Universal Music exec Charlie Walk has accused the major of disseminating and exploiting allegations of sexual harassment that had been made against him in order to push him out of his multi-million dollar a year role running Republic Records. That claim is made in a new lawsuit that targets the lawyer Walk hired to represent him as Universal investigated the sexual harassment allegations back in 2018, who the former label exec accuses of legal malpractice.

Universal announced that Walk was stepping down as President of its Republic label in the US in March 2018, after various allegations of sexual harassment were made against him as the #MeToo movement gained momentum. The first allegations came from a former colleague, Tristan Coopersmith, who had worked with Walk at Sony Music in the mid-2000s. Rolling Stone then ran a report citing similar allegations from a number of other women.

At the time Walk denied the allegations, telling reporters: “I did not do these things and this is not who I am. Throughout my career, I have always sought to conduct myself professionally and appropriately. It is upsetting to be presented with false claims from long ago that I know to be untrue and were never reported. I support the national discussion taking place right now because I believe fully in the importance in treating everyone with respect and dignity at all times”.

As Universal launched an investigation into the allegations, Walk hired the services of attorney Marc Kasowitz, possibly best known for his work repping a certain Donald Trump. However, Walk now claims, Kasowitz provided him with “botched” legal representation, pressuring him to sign up to a “one-sided agreement” with Universal that ultimately left his life “in tatters”.

The lawsuit against Kasowitz states: “In 2018, Mr Walk, the then President of the leading label in the entire world by market share, Universal Music Group’s Republic Records, was on top of the music world. He had been in the music business for 30 years, having worked with artists from Beyonce to Ariana Grande, and had just started a TV show. With bonuses, Mr Walk was earning at least $3.5 million a year, in negotiations with UMG for a new employment agreement worth $20 million over the next five years, and likely to maintain such earnings for at least another fifteen years”.

But, it then states, “UMG’s spite and Kasowitz’s ineptitude destroyed all of this”. Honing in on the former of those two allegations first, it goes on: “Perceiving Mr Walk as too big to control, too expensive to keep, and not wanting to lose him to a rival such as Warner, UMG kneecapped him, so that it could both fire him and make him unhireable by anyone else”.

“At the height of the highly charged and daily accusations of #MeToo allegations in the entertainment industry, UMG willfully disseminated a fifteen year old canard – a facially incredible story – that Mr Walk had sexually harassed an employee at another company (Sony), as a pretext to threaten to fire him for cause unless he quietly resigned. Effectively giving Mr Walk no ability to defend himself against the false accusations, UMG violated its own employment agreement with Mr Walk and publicised its purported internal investigation of him to create a pretext for him to be fired”.

“The point here was for the public to associate Mr Walk with Harvey Weinstein”, it goes on. “Yet, the only reason this worked is because Kasowitz – who was hired to be Mr Walk’s heroic defender – passively cooperated with UMG, leaving Mr Walk defenceless”.

The lawsuit then presents in more detail Walk’s denial of the various harassment allegations. “Mr Walk never engaged in any untoward conduct while he worked at Sony”, it claims, “as his exemplary employment record there can attest. However, UMG made no effort to reach out to Sony regarding these false claims”.

“Instead, intent on cutting off his substantial salary from the company payroll and permanently ruining his career and reputation, UMG immediately latched onto these baseless, fifteen year old allegations and lent them undeserved ‘credibility’ by publicly informing all UMG employees about them within 24 hours of their being aired on the accuser’s blog, who herself at the same time was promoting a book on how to date at work”.

Insisting that the allegations against him were not credible, and that – anyway – Walk’s employment agreement with Universal only allowed for him to be fired in relation to incidents that occurred while working for the major, he claims that the label’s “threat to fire him for cause if he did not walk the plank on his own was in and of itself an anticipatory breach of that agreement, making UMG liable for millions”.

Kasowitz should have recognised this, Walk now claims, and should have pushed back at Universal’s attempts to remove the Republic boss from his job, or sought millions in damages for him being pushed out. “Instead of a fighter for his client”, the lawsuit then states, “Kasowitz turned out to be passive and uninformed about the true facts of Mr Walk’s case, and quickly pressured him to enter into settlement agreement that was not in Mr Walk’s best interest”.

“In short, Kasowitz and the Kasowitz Firm negligently failed to assert clear-cut claims against a culpable party, UMG, denying Mr Walk substantial monetary damages … Worse, they did not fulfil their most fundamental responsibilities to their client – informing him that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement. Instead, he was falsely told that he had no choice. His own lawyers set him up to be destroyed”.

Walk claims that UMG and Kasowitz together destroyed his career in the music business, depriving him of at least $60 million in future salary income. “Thus, Mr Walk seeks as damages from the defendants the $60 million he would have been able to earn but for their malpractice, and the return of the fees he paid”.

Universal is not actively involved in the lawsuit, despite the strong allegations being made against it. Meanwhile, Kasowitz has told The Hollywood Reporter that the litigation is “a false and defamatory piece of work which Mr Walk and his attorneys should be ashamed of and will regret”.

“Our firm represented Charlie Walk in connection with his separation from UMG following an internal investigation by UMG”, the lawyer added. “We provided Mr Walk with litigation and non-litigation options and, based on his consultation with the firm and other advisors, he chose a non-litigation course, which resulted in settlement”.

“Now, because Mr Walk has been unsuccessful in his professional endeavours, he has filed a patently frivolous complaint against the firm. We are confident the case will dismissed, at which point we will pursue appropriate remedies against Mr Walk and the law firms that have filed this egregiously false pleading”.