ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Michael Moore Sues for Profits of “Fahrenheit 9/11”

Michael_MooreFilm Director Michael Moore filed suit last week against brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein for the 2004 documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” alleging breach of contract, constructive fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty. According to the Los Angeles Times, Moore is now seeking $2.7 in compensatory damages, legal fees and other costs. The complaint asserts that deceptive accounting practices enabled the Weinsteins to siphon off millions owed to Moore and his company, Westside Productions. The Weinstein brothers allegedly deducted payments that were never made, deducted expenses that were never authorized, and diverted to their own entity at least $2.5 million from the revenue pool, which Moore alleges they were to split 50/50 with Moore.

The documentary, a look at President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, grossed a whopping $222 million worldwide, for which Moore received $19.8 million. The Weinstein brothers and their company, Fellowship Adventure Group, also collaborated with Moore on his 2007 documentary “Sicko,” which attempted to do for the U.S. healthcare industry what Moore's earlier film, "Pets or Meat" did for rabbits.  There subsequently seems to have been a falling out, as the Weinsteins were not involved in Moore's most recent film.  

The Weinsteins' attorney claims Moore is just playing on the timing of the Oscar’s, a claim that Moore’s attorney denies- pointing out that Moore does not even have a movie out this year.  But the Weinsteins are more likely pointing to the timing of the suit as seeking to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the Oscar season and more particularly the Weinstein's film, "The King's Speech," which is a front-runner for best picture.  Or perhaps the Weinsteins' attorney is simply under order to mention "The King's Speech" as often as possible in the run-up to the Oscars.  The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

While Moore’s films have been shrouded in controversy before, Moore’s attorney reports that this is his first suit in his 20 year career.   Look for a new Moore documentary that takes aim at the legal system.  

[JT & Katherine Freeman]

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