Sketchy Deal: Inside New York's $20 Million Model Agency LawsuitSusan Scafidi in Fashionologie, October 18, 2012
Some of New York's top modeling agencies are named in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that alleges they've used shady accounting practices to hold onto money they should have paid their models.
A group of models claiming that Ford, Wilhelmina, Elite, and Women, among others — as well as brands like L'Oréal, Aveda, and Revlon — have withheld hefty portions of their royalties. Louisa Raske, a model who appeared on the May/June 2005 cover of Brides, at left, is leading the class action suit and seeks $20 million in damages. Her 19-page summons claims that these agencies commonly work on the models' behalf without the models knowing it, and arrange deals "as if the modeling agencies had contacted the models and had the legal authority to execute the documents."
The suit goes on to say that "since the models are unaware of the extended/expanded usages for which the modeling agencies have negotiated and received payment on their behalf . . . the models never demand or receive payment, and at the very least, the modeling agencies are unjustly enriched by the models' funds."
Raske's suit also claims that in a similar case decided in 2005, some models were told they would "never again model in New York" if they sued their agencies. The models in that case won a $22 million settlement.
Representatives for Ford and Wilhelmina did not respond to requests for comment on this post. But Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University and a board member of the Model Alliance, told us that model payment has been an issue for quite some time.
"Models have repeatedly expressed concern about lack of transparency in agency accounting practices," Scafidi said in an email. "While some agencies are more conscientious and professional than others, a lawsuit was perhaps inevitable — though the scale of this one is quite dramatic."
A full list of the defendants in this case can be found below.
Next Management LLC
Wilhelmina Models Inc.
Wilhelmina International Ltd.
Ford Models Inc.
Elite Model Management — New York LLC
DNA Model Management LLC
IMG Models Inc.
Trump Model Management LLC
MC2 dba aka Karin Models of New York LLC
Major Model Management Inc.
Silent Models LLC
Fusion Model Management Inc.
Marilyn Model Management Inc.
1 Management LLC
Red Model Management Inc.
Request Model Management Inc.
Supreme Model Management LLC
VNY Model Management Inc.
Men Women NY Model Management Inc.
APM Models Inc.
Q Model Management dba aka New York Model Management Inc.
Click Model Management Inc.
S Model Management LLC
Elite Model Management Corporation
NYC Management Group Inc.
McCann-Erickson USA Inc.
Ogilvy + Mather Partners Inc.
Laird + Partners New York LLC
Leo Burnett Company Inc.
Saatchi + Saatchi North America Inc.
Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners Inc.
L'Oréal USA Inc.
Sephora USA Inc.