Three years after the Killers’ former manager Braden Merrick sued the band for alleged breach of contract, the Killers have responded with a countersuit seeking unspecified damages for what they say was a pattern of incompetence and double-dealing that led to losses of revenue for the group.
The Killers’ lawsuit, filed Friday (Feb. 20) in federal court in Las Vegas, alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment, as well as breach of an implied good-faith covenant by former manager Merrick and his company, From the Future.
Though the Killers’ suit doesn’t specify the amount of damages being sought, a statement from the band obtained by Billboard cites “multi-million-dollar damages in missed concerts and lost touring revenues, and via the bungling of merchandising and promotional opportunities.” The lawsuit alleges various instances of unresponsiveness and ineptitude on Merrick’s part, such as failing to obtain the proper touring visas or coordinate promotions and concerts abroad.
The suit also accuses Merrick of working for the band’s label, Island Def Jam, as a paid consultant in breach of his managerial contract, without the group’s knowledge.
The legal battle began in 2006 when Merrick sued the Killers and their current manager, Robert Reynolds, for at least $16 million each, claiming that the band had fired Merrick without legal justification, had failed to pay him royalties under a producer agreement they had with him, and that Reynolds had interfered with the band’s abiding by its contracts with Merrick.
Shortly thereafter, the Killers filed a petition before the California Labor Commissioner, seeking to void their contract with Merrick and recover all commissions paid to him, plus interest. That petition cited a California law that requires people getting work for performers to have a talent agent’s license.
“The California Labor Commissioner recently ruled that Merrick violated California law on seven separate occasions by obtaining jobs for the band without being licensed as a talent agent,” according to the Killers’ statement.
Merrick’s attorney, Howard King, called the Killers’ quest to void Merrick’s contract under the California law a “scheme” designed to provide the band a “$10,000,000 windfall.”
"Once Merrick delivered fame and fortune to the band, he obviously became a financial liability with his written contracts entitling him to, among other things, 15% of the band's gross income from record sales, publishing, touring and merchandising over a four year time period," King said in an e-mail.
He added that no final ruling had been issued on the state matter, and cited a 2008 case in which the California Supreme Court ruled “that it is not equitable to deny a manager millions in compensation for a few minor transgressions… We fully expect that Merrick will receive the millions he is owed."
King said Merrick’s 2006 suit had been stayed by the Nevada federal court while the Killers pursued their claims before the California Labor Commissioner, but that the stay has now been lifted.
The Killers' new federal countersuit reprises some of the same allegations against Merrick they reportedly made in California, and claims that the parties had modified their agreements while Merrick was still managing the Killers, such that he waived the producer royalties he is now seeking.
"Perhaps more offensive than his violations of law and secretive double dealing is listening to Merrick's contingent fee lawyer pretending it was an absentee manager and not the band's exceptional talent that propelled them towards success early on in their career," the Killers' lawyers said via email. "This bit of fiction will be no more successful in federal court than it was before the Labor Commissioner. Juries understand that the days of getting something for nothing are over."