After a two-year legal battle, a judge has awarded six storyboard artists the money their agent had kept from them.Between 2002 and 2010, Brian “BJ” Martin, the owner of Greenlight Studios in New Jersey, charged over a dozen big-name agencies—including BBDO, Ogilvy & Mather, JWT, and Saatchi & Saatchi—upwards of 50 per cent more than he told clients he billed. After he underpaid the illustrators, Martin used the excess billings, mark-up fees and overtime to buy a $1.45 million home in New Jersey.
According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, artist Thomas Fluhraty first realised that something was amiss in July 2010, when he called a friend at Fallon to see if work he had completed in February had been paid for yet. Fluhraty’s friend sent him the invoice for significantly more money than Martin had indicated. (An agent typically gets 25 per cent of billings).
Fluhraty and five other artists—Ray Ketchem, Tim Shinn, Shelley Williams, Kevin Sacco, and John Wohland—had all done work for big clients (FedEx, Domino’s, Orbitz, and Pepsi) that they had been underpaid for. Some of the effected campaigns were really huge, including McCann Erickson’s “Can you hear me now?” spots for Verizon.
After two years in court, covering alleged under-billing for almost a decade, the clients were awarded $1.7 million in damages.
The illustrators’ lawyer, Robert Zeller, told Business Insider that the case involved almost $10 million in bills paid. Zeller wrote in an email that “$10 million was the approximate total Greenlight revenue from the agencies during the period the artists used Greenlight and Martin as their agent. The works created by the plaintiff artists generated about 86% of that revenue and they should have been paid 75% of that amount. They only received about 57%.”
Although the plaintiffs are satisfied with the verdict, they “will not be happy unless and until it is actually paid.”
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