Soundgarden Members Countersue Chris Cornell's Widow Over Charity Funds

Soundgarden
Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Soundgarden attend the premiere of Marvel Studios' "Marvel's The Avengers" held at the El Capitan Theatre on April 11, 2012 in Hollywood, Calif.

The Cornell estate's lawyer, Marty Singer, hits back, saying the surviving band members are using "salacious, scurrilous, and vicious allegations in order to distract from the truth."

The surviving members of Soundgarden (Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd) filed a countersuit against late lead singer Chris Cornell's widow, Vicky Cornell, and the Cornell estate in U.S. District Court in Miami on Wednesday (May 6).

Among the claims in the suit are allegations that Vicky Cornell and the estate engaged in "fraudulent inducement" by allegedly attempting to use the revenue from a charity concert in Cornell's name for "personal purposes for herself and her family," according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Billboard.

The suit comes two months after the band asked a judge to dismiss Vicky Cornell's suit against them -- over Chris Cornell's final recordings -- or move the dispute to Washington state. The countersuit argues that the band members had reached an oral agreement with Vicky Cornell to perform at the Jan. 16, 2019, "I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell" concert with the understanding that any funds raised would go to the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation.

To date however, they claim that the recipients of the proceeds from their first show together since Cornell's 2017 suicide --- which they claim could be "many millions of dollars" -- "have not been identified." Further, they allege that "Vicky Cornell did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes, but rather for personal purposes for herself and her family," and that Vicky Cornell knew that promises of future charitable giving were "false, or exhibited recklessness and negligence as to its truth or falsity, for the purpose and intent of inducing Soundgarden into agreeing to perform at the Cornell Concert without compensation."

To date, the band says Cornell has only accounted for $643,000 going to medical research charity Epidermolysis Bullosa Medial Research Foundation (EBMRF), while demanding a full accounting of the disbursement of funds. The countersuit also claims that Vicky Cornell has taken over Soundgarden's social media accounts and identified herself as Soundgarden while refusing to "deliver the log-in information and other access rights to the Soundgarden Social Media Accounts or to otherwise relinquish control" over them.

Additionally, they claim that without their consent she has "removed fan comments and has herself posted images and comments to publicly-accessible Band Social Media pages."

The back-and-forth is the latest skirmish between the members of the iconic grunge band and Cornell's widow, following on the heels of her 2019 suit claiming that they have withheld royalties from her in a "strong-arm" attempt to gain access to seven unreleased recordings made by Chris Cornell before his death, which the band claim were intended for a Soundgarden album; Vicky Cornell has argued that her late husband was the "sole and exclusive owner and copyright holder" of the songs. As a result, Soundgarden claim that the withholding of the tracks has made them "unable to fulfill its obligations to Universal [Records] pursuant to the Universal Recording Agreement."

In a statement to Billboard, Vicky Cornell (and the Cornell Estate's) lawyer, Marty Singer said, "It is unfortunate that Chris Cornell’s three former bandmates – who have made millions of dollars from Chris' hard work, talent and creativity – continue to attack Chris' legacy, his widow, and his young children by making salacious, scurrilous, and vicious allegations in order to distract from the truth. Their transparently desperate counterclaims – which were intentionally filed shortly before the eve of the anniversary of Chris’ death and the eve of Chris and Vicky’s wedding anniversary – do not change the fact that they are the ones who have improperly asserted ownership of vocal recordings that were created solely by Chris and that they are the ones who have unlawfully withheld substantial sums of money from Chris’ widow and children (which is the very basis for the current lawsuit)."

Singer said his client "vehemently" denies the "supposed 'facts'" in the countersuit, promising swift legal action, adding that it is "ironic" that Cornell's former bandmates now "feign outrage" over the tribute concert, which he said raised over $1 million for the late singer's foundation, paying more than $650,000 to EBMRF for medical research, "and which has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of who owns Chris’ vocal recordings." Singer claims that the band members received over $78,000 to perform at the charity concert.

"As Chris’ former band members are well aware, every single penny of the proceeds generated by the concert were properly allocated and accounted for and their statements are not only false and defamatory but demonstrate the depths to which Chris’ former bandmates are willing to sink to tarnish his legacy," Singer said. Vicky Cornell also posted a pointed tweet on Wednesday, seemingly in response to the countersuit.

"You were so wrong to think you'd silence me by lies, intimidation and fear," she wrote. "That you might break me because its a gutwrenching time." Cornell was found dead of suicide on May 18, 2017, in Detroit following a Soundgarden concert that night; the couple married on May 8, 2004.

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