New York court dismisses former Universal exec’s lawsuit against his ex-lawyer

A New York court yesterday dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by former Universal Music exec Charlie Walk against the lawyer who represented him when he exited the major in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment.

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. He has always denied all of those allegations, but after an investigation by the major he nevertheless signed a settlement agreement that saw him leave the music company.

While negotiating that settlement agreement Walk was advised by the lawyer Marc Kasowitz. In March last year, Walk filed a lawsuit alleging that Kasowitz had “botched” the negotiations with his former employer, pressuring him to sign up to a “one-sided agreement” that ultimately left his life “in tatters”.

Elsewhere in the lawsuit Walk accused Universal of exploiting “a fifteen year old canard” and “a facially incredible story” in order to push him out of the business while ensuring he wouldn’t be snapped up by a rival record company.

Kasowitz quickly hit back at Walk’s allegations regarding his work negotiating with Universal in 2018. The litigation, he told reporters last March, was “a false and defamatory piece of work which Mr Walk and his attorneys should be ashamed of and will regret”.

Arguing that Walk’s lawsuit should be dismissed yesterday, Kasowitz’s legal rep Gavin Schryver argued that paperwork proved that Walk had received the advice he now claims was lacking during the 2018 negotiations.

Among other things, Walk says that Kasowitz failed to point out two issues that could have been raised had he taken his dispute with Universal to arbitration. That includes claims that his employment contract with Universal was terminated “without cause” and that the major had breached a confidentiality clause in that contract by publicly commenting on its investigation into the allegations that had been made against him.

But, according to Law360, Schryver argued that emails from 2018 between Walk and his legal team, and between Kasowitz and Universal, show that these issues were discussed at the time. Walk nevertheless decided to settle rather than push for arbitration, Schryver said, because “every one of those arguments is weak at best – and frankly a loser”.