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Baiul v. William Morris Agency, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 6, 2014

OKSANA BAIUL, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY, LLC, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge.

Before this Court is another lawsuit - against numerous and myriad defendants[1] - brought by Oksana Baiul ("plaintiff" or "Baiul") that seeks millions of dollars in damages for events that took place in the 1990s.[2] This suit alleges a sweeping conspiracy spanning more than two decades by more than 20 individuals and entities to steal tens of millions of dollars from Baiul that she earned during the course of performances, endorsements, and other business ventures. The suit is frivolous and, frankly, bizarre.

For the reasons set forth below, this suit is also wholly without merit, defendants' motions to dismiss are GRANTED, and this action is DISMISSED.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On October 8, 2013, Baiul filed this action in New York State Supreme Court, New York County, for, inter alia, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., and claims for fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion. (Notice of Removal, Ex. 1, ECF No. 1.)[3] The action was properly removed by certain defendants on December 6, 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 10-15.)[4]

Following the filing of motions to dismiss the amended complaint by certain defendants, on January 29, 2014, Baiul filed the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") without leave of the Court and in violation of Rule 15(a). (ECF No. 106.) Nevertheless, the Court allowed filing of the SAC in light of defendants' stated consent. (See ECF Nos. 107, 108, 113.)

Four sets of defendants subsequently filed motions to dismiss the SAC for failure to state a claim - (1) defendants Key Brand Entertainment, Inc., ("KBE"), and Michael Rosenberg and Nancy Rosenberg (the "Rosenbergs") (collectively, the "KBE Defendants"); (2) defendants Olympic Champions Ltd. (Delaware), Olympic Champions Ltd. (BVI), Galina Zmievskaya, Nina Petrenko, Joseph Lemire, and Victor Petrenko (collectively, the "Olympic Defendants")[5]; (3) defendant Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ("SAG" or "the Union"); and (4) defendants 1898 Holdings, LLC (f/k/a William Morris Agency, LLC ("WMA")), William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC ("WMEE"), Sheldon Shultz, Michael Carlisle, James Griffin, Alan Dworkin, and Richard Hersh (collectively, the "WMEE Defendants"), and defendants Wallin Simon & Black, Patricia Black, and Alan Suskind (collectively, the "Accounting Defendants").[6]

Baiul opposed each of the four motions by March 19, 2014, and the motions became fully briefed on April 8, 2014.

II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Baiul is a Ukrainian-born figure skater who won the 1993 World Championship and the Olympic Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics in February 1994 in Ladies Figure Skating. (SAC ¶¶ 65, 69.) Since these performances, she has allegedly appeared in "innumerable" television, film, and stage productions, has appeared in advertisements, has authored two books, and has promoted fashion and jewelry lines. (Id. ¶ 68.) Baiul was born on November 16, 1977 and moved from the Ukraine to the United States in 1994; at that time, she alleges that she was a minor who was not able to speak, read, or understand English. (Id. ¶¶ 69, 96, 100, 126.)

Baiul alleges the formation of a "criminal enterprise" around the time she won the 1993 World Championship - she has named the enterprise "Promises Broken."[7] Baiul alleges this "organization" included or associated with, inter alia, defendants; the object of the enterprise is alleged to be stealing money from and "exploiting" her without her knowledge, "in keeping with the standard operating procedure for post-Soviet criminal enterprises." (Id. ¶¶ 64, 77-93, 111, 123, 126, 130-33.) Beginning in 1993, Baiul alleges that various individuals, including certain Olympic Defendants, held positions in Promises Broken, and that the money stolen from Baiul was transferred into their accounts. (Id. ¶¶ 78-86, 89.)

The SAC primarily focuses on a four-year period from 1993 through 1997, during which time Baiul signed various agreements and alleges defendants stole more than $57 million from her. Baiul alleges that she "exclusively relied upon one or more persons associated with Promises Broken for business decisions including the interpretation" of the various agreements she signed and reviewed. (Id. ¶ 263; Baiul Aff. ¶¶ 2, 7, ECF No. 158.)

On or about May 9, 1994, Baiul entered into several contracts with WMA (now known as 1898 Holdings, LLC, a WMEE Defendant), which granted WMA the exclusive right to represent her in all fields and media throughout the world, the right to collect monies on her behalf, and set forth deductions for commissions and other compensation for services. (SAC ¶ 135.) At the time, Baiul was 16 years old. (Id. ¶ 126.) Also on or about May 9, 1994, WMA signed various agreements with the Olympic Defendants and others, which appointed WMA as Baiul's sole agent with respect to her services in the entertainment industry and established terms and conditions of compensation among the parties for certain of Baiul's services. (Id. ¶ 136.) Baiul renewed the agreement with WMA on May 9, 1997, when she was 19 years old. (Id. ¶¶ 126, 249.)

In 1993 and 1994, the KBE Defendants and the Olympic Defendants are alleged to have stolen more than $1 million that Baiul should have been paid in connection with her performances in the "Tom Collins Shows." (Id. ¶¶ 113-16, 137-52.) In 1994, WMA transferred no less than $190, 000 that belonged to Baiul to settle a dispute between, inter alia, the Olympic Defendants and the KBE Defendants, which resulted in the KBE Defendants being "expelled" from Promises Broken at that time. (Id. ¶¶ 155-58, 168-72, 182-83.)

The Olympic Defendants are alleged to have stolen compensation Baiul may have received in 1994 as a result of training at the International Skating Center in Connecticut, as well as $40, 000 that was later used to purchase a license for defendant Gala Radio in the Ukraine. (Id. ¶¶ 99-110, 158-160.) The SAC alleges that Lemire, as well as other defendants who are alleged to be affiliated with Lemire, stole $15 million from Baiul in the Ukraine from 1993 to the present.[8] (Id. ¶¶ 167, 452, 463.)

Baiul alleges that the WMEE Defendants and the Olympic Defendants diverted compensation Baiul should have received from the movie A Promise Kept: The Oksana Baiul Story ("A Promise Kept") to either themselves or to Petrenko and Zmievskaya individually, in 1994 - in total, more than $500, 000, whereas Baiul alleges she was "never paid" for her work on the movie. (Id. ¶¶ 301-27.) Baiul alleges that WMEE "should still be collecting royalties" for the movie and transferring them to her. (Id. ¶¶ 328-29.)

Baiul alleges that she performed in two Nutcracker on Ice shows in late 1994, but was not told how much she was being paid; according to the SAC, she was told that she would be performing in those shows by certain of the Olympic Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 201-03.) Baiul alleges that the Olympic Defendants and the WMEE Defendants either withheld compensation or diverted compensation to Petrenko for these shows. (Id. ¶¶ 352-60, 376-84.) Baiul alleges that the certain WMEE Defendants stole money that she earned from performing in a Wizard of Oz on Ice show in 1995, telling her at the time that she made $25, 000 when in actuality she made $350, 000. (Id. ¶¶ 205-12, 428-36.)

Baiul alleges that she is owed money from a merchandising agreement with Sony Signatures from 1994 that was executed by the WMEE Defendants and the Olympic Defendants that provided for, inter alia, a $100, 000 advance as well as other royalties. (Id. ¶¶ 400-25.) Baiul alleges a wire transfer related to this agreement from WMEE to Olympic Champions Ltd. in March 1995. (Id. ¶ 415.)

Additionally, Baiul alleges that WMEE paid millions of dollars to individuals associated with Promises Broken and not to her for other promotional work and business ventures, including $150, 000 for the Oksana Baiul Jewelry Collection, millions of dollars for a Snickers endorsement campaign, royalties for two "bestseller" books, and more than $21 million related to an October 1995 Health Rider infomercial. (Id. ¶ 450.)

Baiul alleges it was her belief that, "due to an unrelated dispute, " she severed all ties with the Olympic Defendants in January 1997. (Id. ¶ 184.)

Certain of the Accounting Defendants were hired to handle Baiul's business affairs, financial affairs, and tax returns in March 1997. (Id. ¶ 195.) Baiul alleges that the Accounting Defendants continuously represented her as her accountants from 1997 through 2012. (Id. ¶ 454.) Baiul alleges, generally, that the Accounting Defendants covered up, destroyed evidence of, concealed, and otherwise failed to inform her of the other allegations of theft contained in the SAC beginning in 1994 up through the filing of this action. (Id. ¶¶ 458-59.)

Baiul alleges that the WMEE Defendants and the Accounting Defendants failed to tell her that the house in which she was living was not owned by her in March 1997, when she expressed a desire to sell the house. (Id. ¶¶ 185-99.) She further alleges that the house was owned by the Olympic Defendants until 1997, but that she did not know this fact until September 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 189, 244-45.)

Between 1997 and 2000, Baiul alleges that she was repeatedly told that everything was "great" with respect to her "business" by certain WMEE Defendants such as Schultz. (Id. ¶¶ 226-28.) Baiul alleges that she is still owed $472, 500 in performance fees by Tom Collins Enterprises for a summer tour in 1998, but that WMEE failed to collect this money and instead agreed with Tom Collins to reduce her per-performance fees at that time. (Id. ¶ 460.)

Baiul alleges that she received, in 1997 and 1998, a total of nearly $1.4 million (after taxes) for the period from 1993 through 1997, which she alleges translates to a gross income of $2.8 million. (Id. ¶¶ 250-54.) Though Baiul alleges that she thought she had been "well-compensated" at the time for her work during these years, the SAC alleges that more than $57 million was stolen from her by defendants during this four-year period. (Id. ¶¶ 258, 452.) The SAC alleges that more than $62 million has been stolen from Baiul by defendants from 1993 through the date of the filing of this action. (Id. ¶ 463.)

Baiul alleges that, in 2000, she ended her contractual relationship with the WMEE Defendants; at that time, she alleges the Accounting Defendants took over "management" of Promises Broken. (Id. ¶¶ 260, 289.) During the period that WMEE represented her (1994-2000), Baiul alleges that WMEE sent her at least twenty earnings history reports ("EHRs") that she now believes to be fraudulent. (Id. ¶¶ 287, 289, 330, 368, 392, 425, 442.)

Baiul alleges that Carlo J. Farina began working as her business manager in the latter half of 2011, and that he began to investigate her royalties and residuals at that time.[9] (Id. ¶¶ 264-65.) Farina contacted defendants for documentation and explanations and, on November 19, 2011, Baiul received from WMEE a copy of her EHR for the period December 29, 1991 through December 26, 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 266-68.) Baiul alleges that, after receiving and reviewing the EHR, Farina began to investigate the payments made to her by defendants during the period and uncovered discrepancies. (Id. ¶¶ 274-77.)

Baiul alleges "upon information and belief' that, from on or about December 6, 2011 through May 2012, the Accounting Defendants sent her documents and accounting records that were fraudulent. (Id. ¶¶ 278-280.) Baiul also alleges "upon information and belief' that the Accounting Defendants destroyed her documents and records for 1997 in order to protect the WMEE Defendants and the Olympic Defendants. (Id. ¶ 281.) Elsewhere in the SAC, Baiul alleges that an $11, 045.70 royalty paid pursuant to the Sony Signatures agreement was not on her EHR, but rather had been misfiled by the Accounting Defendants but provided to Baiul at this time. (Id. ¶ ...


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