Leonard Cohen sued his longtime business manager yesterday (Aug. 15) for allegedly defrauding the famed singer/songwriter of at least $5 million.
The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court seeks damages for alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, common law fraud, professional negligence and other claims against Kelley Lynch. Tax lawyer Richard Westin was also named as a defendant for allegedly mismanaging Cohen’s retirement funds.
The defendants were not immediately available for comment.
“This civil action is another case of a tragedy that has become all too familiar in the music industry — a business manager and professional advisers exploit an immensely talented artist’s loyalty and trust through greed, self-dealing, concealment, knowing misrepresentation and reckless disregard for professional fiduciary duties,” according to the complaint filed by plaintiff’s attorney Scott Edelman.
According to the suit, Lynch was Cohen’s business manager for about 17 years until he fired her in October for allegedly taking money out of his personal and investment accounts. It was alleged that the amounts taken were far in excess of the 15% management compensation that Lynch was entitled to receive.
The fraud allegedly started while Cohen was taking time away from his career to focus on his spiritual life at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in Los Angeles. While Cohen was not recording or touring, Lynch allegedly started to pay herself a greater portion of the artist’s royalties. She also allegedly introduced Cohen to Westin, who is accused of helping Lynch to orchestrate the sale of Cohen’s music publishing and artist royalties.
“Cohen believed that he had hired Westin and [his firm] to protect his retirement savings, but, in fact, they burdened the sale with transactions costs in excess of $4 million and they devised unnecessarily complex corporate structures that allowed Lynch to steal over $5 million for her own benefit without Cohen’s knowledge or consent,” the suit states.