Did Taylor Swift's father conspire to cheat her former manager out of millions of dollars earned by launching the Grammy-winning country star?
That's the question before a federal judge in New York in a case brought by Dan Dymtrow, a music manager who claims he's owed millions in commissions because he discovered Swift, signed her in April 2004 when she was 14 and played a key role in building her career before being dumped in July 2005, just before Swift signed with Big Machine Records and became an international sensation.
Dymtrow says his management deals with Swift and parents Scott and Andrea Swift provided that he be paid between 5%-10% commission (or more) from Taylor's music career. But after developing Swift and introducing her to industry heavyweights like Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta, Dymtrow says he was strung along by the family and then fired to avoid paying him.
"They delayed and delayed [the deal] and got rid of my client and subsequently signed the deal and kept his commissions for themselves," Dymtrow attorney Fernando Pinguelo said.
In response, the Swifts claim that because Dymtrow failed to obtain the required court approval of his management contract with Taylor, then a minor, she legally disaffirmed the deal in 2005, months before she signed the Big Machine deal and a full year before she released her debut single, "Tim McGraw."
"For him to claim that her success and her major contracts were procured by him is ludicrous," said Swift's lawyer, Paul LiCalsi of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. "And even if there were some merit to his claims, paying him on the contract would defeat the whole purpose of the law in New York, which is to protect minors who sign contracts."
Pinguelo retorted: "What the Swifts fail to realize is that the law also protects managers like Dan Dymtrow against minors and parents who take full advantage of his services without paying him what is owed."
The two sides have been battling under the radar since 2007, when Dymtrow, who also has repped Britney Spears, sued Taylor Swift and her parents, claiming they breached a management contract by paying him only $10,000 for his work launching Taylor's career. In March, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan shot down six of Dymtrow's claims against the Swifts and Big Machine, leaving an unjust-enrichment claim against the Swifts intact.
On Wednesday, the two sides submitted a joint letter to the court seeking documents they hope will prove their cases. In the letter, Pinguelo argues that Dymtrow was a victim of a conspiracy between Scott Swift and Borchetta to dump him.
As proof, Pingeulo sites an August 2006 e-mail from Scott Swift to Borchetta purporting to show how the two had agreed to fire Dymtrow: "Enough with the Dymtrow," Swift allegedly wrote. "You asked me to break both his legs, wrap him in chains and throw him in the lake. I did."
Dymtrow argues that the e-mail suggests Taylor Swift disaffirmed her contract to escape paying him for deals that he initiated and that would not have happened without his help. He also wants access to documents he says will show that his work directly led to Swift's multiplatinum record sales and skyrocketing career.
"Mr. Dymtrow seeks to prove that key deal points that were being discussed during his tenure were, in sum and substance, consistent with the points that were further negotiated and signed after his term as a manager," the letter says.
Dymtrow also claims he introduced Swift to agents at CAA who ended up representing her in booking concert gigs, so he is entitled to commissions from that relationship. LiCalsi refuted that charge.
"To say that is worth millions is just the height of overreaching," he said.
No trial date has been set.