Kiesel Law LLP News

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Risto Class Certification Granted

On Monday, September 14, 2020, Judge Christina A. Snyder of the U.S. District Court, Central District, granted class certification to over 30,000 session musicians and vocalists in an action against SAG-AFTRA and AFM, and its Trustees, for draining in excess of $9,000,000 from an artists’ Fund set up by Congress. The Fund is charged by Congress to collect and distribute royalties received from sources around the world. Instead of holding these funds in trust and working to distribute as much money as possible to the beneficiaries it was responsible for representing, the Fund’s Trustees, officers of the two artist Unions, implemented a service fee that siphoned millions of dollars from the Fund and to the Unions’ coffers. The class certification ruling is significant for a few reasons. One, it confirmed that the Unions’ conduct was uniform and affected all beneficiaries similarly. Two, the Judge refused Defendants’ argument that unpaid beneficiaries (those that the Fund has not yet actually found and paid) lacked standing. All beneficiaries of the Fund, whether or not the Fund has actually located them, are entitled to the royalties due to the Copyright Act and all have been harmed by the application of the fee. The class action will have the widest application possible and will successfully recover all the funds which have been wrongfully converted by the Unions. The class action seeks recovery of the service fee since 2013, and injunction to stop the fee from being assessed in the future, and punitive damages for Defendants’ wrongful conduct.