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Charlie Walk’s former lawyer demands dismissal of malpractice lawsuit

By | Published on Tuesday 27 April 2021

Charlie Walk

The law firm that represented former Universal Music exec Charlie Walk during his departure from the major, which followed allegations of sexual harassment, has demanded that he and his current legal team dismiss a recently filed lawsuit. In that litigation, Walk accuses his former lawyer of legal malpractice and of pressuring him into signing a one-sided settlement agreement with Universal that pretty much destroyed his music industry career.

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.

Walk immediately denied the allegations that had been made against him. But Universal nevertheless launched an investigation, at which point he hired the services of attorney Marc Kasowitz. It was after that investigation that a settlement agreement was reached via which Walk left the music company.

In his recent lawsuit, Walk accused Universal of using the harassment allegations – what he dubbed as “a fifteen year old canard” and “a facially incredible story” – as an excuse to push him out of the company at a time when he was earning at least $3.5 million a year and was in talks to extend his contract with the major for another five years.

“Perceiving Mr Walk as too big to control, too expensive to keep, and not wanting to lose him to a rival such as Warner”, the lawsuit stated, “UMG kneecapped him, so that it could both fire him and make him unhireable by anyone else”.

Despite the strong allegations against Universal, that lawsuit is actually targeted at Kasowitz whose “botched” legal representation enabled Universal to get away with its ruse, or so Walk claimed. The only reason Universal could successfully utilise the harassment claims to push Walk out of the company, his lawsuit stated, was “because Kasowitz – who was hired to be Mr Walk’s heroic defender – passively cooperated with UMG, leaving Mr Walk defenceless”.

Elsewhere in Walk’s lawsuit against his former lawyer, he argued that, aside from the harassment allegations not being credible, they related to incidents before he joined Universal, and his contract with the major only allowed for dismissal as a result of bad conduct that occurred while actually working for the company.

As a result, he alleged, Kasowitz should have pushed back at Universal’s attempts to remove him from his job, or sought millions in damages for him being pushed out, but his lawyer was “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”.

Walk’s lawsuit concluded: “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”.

Kasowitz quickly hit back at Walks’s claims as the lawsuit was filed last month. And in a new letter sent yesterday to Walk’s current legal reps, Kasowitz’s law firm demands that Walk dismiss his litigation by 5.30pm today. If he does not, it says, “we will seek all available costs, attorneys’ fees and other sanctions against you and your client”.

Walk’s lawsuit, the Kasowitz firm argues, has been filed “primarily to harass or maliciously injure Kasowitz and asserts egregiously false material factual statements”. The letter then sets out “some, but certainly not all, of the numerous egregious falsehoods” contained in Walk’s lawsuit.

“The premise of your complaint – that Kasowitz failed to inform Walk ‘that he had a strong alternative to signing the settlement agreement’ and ‘falsely told [Walk] that he had no choice [but to settle]’ – is ludicrously false”, it says. “Kasowitz fully informed Walk of his options to settle or to litigate at all times during the representation. Walk knows this full well – as do the three independent outside attorneys whom Walk consulted and who advised Walk during the entire period Kasowitz represented him”.

Those three outside attorneys are employment lawyer John Singer, corporate lawyer Mitchell Littman, and Thomas Clare, an expert in defamation and reputational attacks. Kasowitz says that they all took part in conference calls with him and Walk back in 2018, and that they all now confirm that Kasowitz properly advised his then client.

The letter adds: “Mr Singer (a friend of Walk since childhood) will, if this case proceeds, testify to the effect that: during numerous conversations in which Mr Singer participated, Kasowitz advised Walk of the pros and cons of both settlement and litigation [and] during those conversations, Kasowitz reviewed the employment agreement with Walk”.

And also that: “Those conversations included vetting a strategy for challenging UMG’s threatened termination for cause; Walk met and consulted with other attorneys besides Kasowitz and Mr Singer during Kasowitz’s representation on whether to settle or litigate, including those listed above; and at no time did Kasowitz pressure Walk to settle, which he chose to do of his own volition”.

The letter – the public version of which has redactions – also disputes some of the claims in Walk’s lawsuit regarding the allegations made against him in 2018 and the specifics of his employment contract with Universal.

“Contrary to your complaint, Walk was accused of misconduct he committed while employed at UMG, and UMG retained an independent law firm to conduct an investigation of those accusations”, it states.

“Based on that investigation, which included a complainant reporting Walk had tried to kiss her at a UMG party, UMG threatened to terminate him for cause, and had clear justification based on the facts reported to UMG for doing so under its harassment policy. Kasowitz advanced Walk’s strongest arguments, such as they were, in the very … letters to UMG you attach to your complaint”.

Yesterday’s letter also claims that, back in 2018, Walk’s key concern was that he didn’t want to be publicly fired “for cause” – even if there was an argument dismissal would put Universal in breach of contract – because of the ramifications that outcome would have, partly professionally, but mainly personally on him and his family.

“Your allegation that Walk entered into the settlement because Kasowitz told him ‘he had no choice but to quickly settle’ is patently false”, the letter then says. “Kasowitz always told Walk that it was ready, willing and able to litigate, and to do so aggressively. Singer, Littman and Clare were intimately involved in these discussions”.

“Walk ultimately made the decision – fully informed by countless discussions (at all hours of the day and night) with Kasowitz and numerous friends, family members and other advisors he consulted – that he wished to enter into the settlement agreement with UMG, in exchange for which he avoided being publicly fired for cause … and avoided a protracted and expensive arbitration”.

“Following his decision to settle, Walk was intimately involved in the drafting of the settlement agreement – on which he and Littman provided numerous comments via phone and email, insisting on specific terms and language they wanted to include”.

The letter then states: “Your client apparently wants to smear Mr Kasowitz and this firm to try to repair his reputation which his own misconduct sullied. He will be unable to do so”.

Addressing Walk’s current legal reps at Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP and Freedman & Taitelman LLP, the letter concludes: “Your participation in his effort by defaming Mr Kasowitz and this firm in your fictional complaint and in your statements to the media is sanctionable. If the complaint is not withdrawn immediately, we will take all necessary and appropriate steps to obtain redress for your and your client’s outrageous conduct”.