What can you do if you think your agent or manager is scamming you?
Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.
Caitlin wrote in with a this: I have a SAG franchised agent in Detroit that I do both union and nonunion work through (right to work state). I feel they are scamming actors on the nonunion work, telling us for instance that a principal role in a commercial pays $400 when it actually pays a few thousand, and they are keeping the bulk of the money (the contract says they are entitled to 15%). I think this because I will get the email for the same job through another agent, and the rates on nonunion work are thousands of dollars different. There are other inconsistencies in their paperwork and while the rates are low they are buying new cameras and lights for in-house auditions. I asked a friend in law enforcement if this sounds like fraud and if they would do anything and they said probably not. Is there anything that should be done here?
Well first off, I have to say you really should enlist the help of a local lawyer who can guide you with this.
If you have a written contract with this agency, check whether you have a right to audit or examine the agency’s books and records. If so, you can hire a forensic accountant to do so, and help figure out what the agency is being paid for these jobs.
You could also ask one of the producers of a project about it, but doing so is risky, since you’d be accusing the agency of wrongdoing to one of their customers.
Finally, you could confront the agency with the info you’re receiving from other sources, and ask for an explanation. And you should insist on signing contracts for every gig… contracts that should specify the pay rate…
And if you don't have a written contract with the agency, you can probably still do all these things, OR you can explore whether it's time to terminate the relationship. Again, consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction.
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