Former CMJ Employees Win $555K Judgment Over Unpaid Wages

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A New York district court ordered that four former CMJ employees were entitled to recover just over $555,000 in unpaid wages and damages from Abaculi Media, the company that currently owns CMJ, according to court documents filed Thursday. 

In the lawsuit, which was originally filed in December 2016, former CMJ general manager David Dekeyser and former social media manager Jessica Levy alleged that Abaculi -- which controls CMJ Holdings and is owned by Adam Klein, all three of whom are named as defendants -- stopped paying them in the fall of 2015, two days after the last iteration of the CMJ Music Marathon ended. They also claimed that they were not paid for overtime, which would extend their workweeks to as much as 60 hours.

In the judgment handed down by district court judge Katherine B. Forrest, Abaculi was ordered to pay $555,027.60 to Dekeyser, Levy and two other plaintiffs, Matthew McDonald and Douglas Sanders. Combining unpaid wages, liquidated damages, unreimbursed expenses and wage notice violations, Dekeyser was awarded $88,300, Levy $79,800, McDonald $173,200 and Sanders $213,700. The four are also entitled to attorneys' fees and court costs.

In a separate suit, filed in December 2017, former CMJ director of business development Claudia Savino alleged similar nonpayment, alleging that Abaculi stopped paying her promised $150,000 per year salary regularly in December 2014, then stopped paying entirely in October 2015. She also similarly alleged non-payment of expenses and overtime. That case is not connected to the judgment announced yesterday.

The CMJ Music Marathon was an institution in New York City for decades, before it ran into difficulties in the last few years. Klein's Abaculi Media acquired the company from an investment group called CMJ Holdings in June 2014 after co-founders Bobby Haber and Joanne Abbot Green sold their remaining stakes to the group. After holding the 35th edition of the festival in 2015, Klein and Abaculi have not brought it back, despite promises to the contrary. In 2016, Haber and Green founded a new conference and festival, Mondo.NYC, which has largely picked up the baton from the missing-in-action CMJ.

In September 2016, a Billboard investigation detailed many of the legal problems and other issues that CMJ has endured over the years, including since Klein took over the company.