Recording Academy Hires Lawyer After Settling Boys Club Case
The Recording Academy, which presents the Grammy Awards, is seeking its first in-house legal counsel after settling a dispute involving its former CEO.
The Academy posted a job posting for an attorney at its headquarters in Santa Monica, California earlier this month. The list is for someone who will work with the organization’s outside lawyer, according to the Academy, who declined to discuss the new legal position further.
The potential hire will oversee the day-to-day legal matters of the Academy, which includes musicians, producers and sound engineers. The employee will be a key strategic advisor to the Academy, its board of directors and senior management, while ensuring that the “legal policies and practices of the organization are best in class,” says the list of jobs for legal counsel.
The decision to hire an in-house lawyer comes just over a month after the Academy settled an EEOC discrimination case brought by its former CEO, Deborah Dugan. She made headlines two years ago, accusing the organization’s external general counsel, Joel Katz, of sexual harassment.
Katz, then partner and founding president of Greenberg Traurig’s global entertainment and media practice, took his own advice and vigorously denied Dugan’s claims.
In June, current Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. gave an interview to music industry publication Billboard in which he said the organization had started the process of hiring an in-house lawyer after being screened for fees paid to outside companies. Billboard reported last year that the Academy paid more than $ 4.5 million to lawyers in fiscal 2019.
A new inside Academy lawyer should have more than eight years of experience in an “established law firm” or in a corporate legal and commercial department, according to the organization’s job listing.
The ex-CEO of the eviction
Dugan accused the Academy of putting her on administrative leave and then firing her after raising concerns about diversity issues, the ‘boys club’ atmosphere and potential conflicts of interest involving members. of the organization’s board of directors. Dugan’s complaint to the EEOC also criticized what she called “exorbitant” legal fees incurred by Greenberg Traurig, Proskauer Rose and other law firms representing the Academy.
Details of Dugan’s settlement with the Academy were not disclosed.
Katz left Greenberg Traurig earlier this year and joined Barnes & Thornburg as senior legal counsel in Atlanta. He did not respond to a request for comment on whether he still works for the Academy. Greenberg Traurig, who continued to advise the Academy, declined to discuss customer issues.
A copy of the nonprofit’s federal income tax return for fiscal 2019 shows that the Atlanta office of Greenberg Traurig, where Katz previously worked, received nearly $ 1.5 million from the Academy. Proskauer’s Los Angeles office has been paid over $ 1 million. The fees of the two firms essentially corresponded to what they received in previous years.
Greenberg Traurig received nearly $ 1.8 million in fiscal 2018; over $ 6.3 million in fiscal 2017; and nearly $ 1.2 million in fiscal 2016, according to tax returns. Proskauer received approximately $ 906,700; $ 873,500; and $ 829,000 from the Academy for legal services during these respective fiscal years. The MusiCares Foundation Inc., a separate charitable arm of the Santa Monica-based Academy, also donated $ 166,800 to Proskauer in fiscal 2020 and $ 296,600 to the company in fiscal 2019.
âMiscellaneousâ legal needs
During a roundtable hosted by Billboard in September 2020, Mason said the Academy’s significant legal bills came in part from commissions on lucrative broadcast deals the organization signed with CBS Corp. Mason said his efforts to reduce the Academy’s legal fees were outweighed by the organization’s âmiscellaneousâ legal needs, such as company law, labor law and intellectual property.
âThere are so many different legal specialties that if we were to bring in a home lawyer, that person would have to be an expert in a lot of things,â Mason said. âWe have to outsource some of our needs. We are trying to reduce that.
Proskauer’s partners Charles Ortner and Sandra Crawshaw-Sparks, who Billboard says served as national legal counsel and deputy national legal adviser to the Academy, did not respond to requests for comment on internal recruitment efforts. organisation. Proskauer either.
Public records show that the Academy continued to rely on Greenberg Traurig. The company was paid $ 80,000 in the first two quarters of this year to lobby on a range of legislative issues affecting the music industry, according to documents filed with the US Senate. Todd Dupler, an attorney serving as executive director of the Academy for Advocacy and Public Policy in Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.
Greenberg Traurig’s associate Robert Rosenbloum in Atlanta was the Academy’s deputy general counsel, reporting to Katz. Billboard reported that these two attorneys and their Proskauer brothers were featured in the 62nd annual Grammy Awards program in January 2020, but were not listed as advisers for the 63rd Grammy Awards which took place last March.
This gathering, part of which was held virtually, took place later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bloomberg News reported this month that the Academy has passed inclusion endorsements that will require producers to hire more diverse candidates for behind-the-scenes and on-camera roles for the 2022 Grammy Awards.
The Academy, formerly known as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, officially named Mason its new leader on June 1.
Mason had already served as interim CEO since Dugan was fired in early 2020. Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., an executive search firm that split on its own legal basis in June, was retained by the Academy research. committee to find a successor to Dugan.