Two weeks after a legal battle between Why Dont We‘s managers David Loeffler and Randy Phillips went public, the boy band is now petitioning the California Labor Commission to throw out its contract with Loeffler and management company Signature Entertainment for violating the state’s Talent Agencies Act.
The members of Why Don’t We — Daniel Seavey, Jonas Marais, Corbyn Besson, Jack Avery and Zach Herron — are now asking the labor commission to rule the contracts are unenforceable and that Signature Entertainment has no right to compensation from the band because neither Loeffler nor his colleague Steven Miller obtained a signed talent agency agreement with the group’s five members. The band’s attorney Alan Gutman also wants Signature to pay the band any money Signature has received for its work with Why Don’t We in the last year, according to an Aug. 30 petition obtained by Billboard that accuses Loeffler and Miller of operating as the band’s talent agent without a license from the California Labor Commissioner.
“We will no longer be silenced,” the group announced in a statement today on their Twitter page, accusing Loeffler of “verbal abuse,” “malnourishment” and “extreme dominance” that have “not only inflicted physical and mental, but also extreme financial harm to us.”
“We look forward to finally closing the chapter on this traumatic stage in our lives by turning the page to our truth,” the statement continues.
— Why Don’t We 🖤🔙 (@whydontwemusic) September 9, 2021
The band’s relationship with Loeffler hit a breaking point earlier this summer when Loeffler fired partner Randy Phillips from the investment company that controls Signature Entertainment, effectively ending Phillips’ management of the band. After Phillips’ firing, Loeffler claims the members of Why Don’t We refused to sign a new recording contract with Atlantic or perform unless Phillips was reinstated as manager.
Loeffler then sued Phillips and the five individual band members on Aug. 17 in Orange County Court in Orlando, Florida, for anticipatory breach of contract and tortious interference with a business relationship. He’s alleging that Phillips was violating Loeffler’s exclusive right to “advise, counsel, direct, and assist” each band member “in connection with all matters relating to their careers in all branches of the entertainment industry,” according to Loeffler’s attorney Michael R Levin.
Phillips responded with his own lawsuit on Aug. 25, claiming that the band endured “nightmarish behavior” while under Loeffler’s supervision “at a rental property that had been secured for them to develop music,” including charges that “Loeffler did not allow them to have friends or visitors, did not feed them properly, and each night set a house alarm, which they did not know the code to, to make sure they did not leave.” In that case Phillips is asking a judge to expel Loeffler from the LLC that owns Signature Entertainment and hand control back to Phillips in a legal process known as disassociation.
“We were 15 to 18 years old when Why Don’t We started,” the band said in their Twitter statement. “We were young, impressionable, and trusting, the result of being brought up in loving, supportive families. While we were initially excited to all be living together in the same house, working together on what we loved most, our music, little did we know that we would eventually become prisoners in the Why Don’t We compound” under the supervision of Loeffler.
“He would not only live with us during the day, but controlled us 24/7, setting an alarm that would go off if any door or window was opened,” the statement reads. “We were not given the security code to the alarm, essentially making us hostages in our own home. Food was restricted to the point that some band members developed eating disorders. We had to sneak food in and hide it in our dresser. We were verbally berated almost every day and alienated from our friends and families. We had no support system except for each other and were made to believe that this was ‘normal,’ that every artist had to pay their dues.”
Gutman is attempting to have the 2016 contracts negotiated between Signature Entertainment (of which Phillips is a signatory) and the band members tossed, arguing the documents are a “fraudulent” way to get around licensing requirements and other Talent Agency Act regulations.
Gutman is also asking the California Labor Commission for an order waiving the band of any liability to Signature Entertainment as well as an order requiring the company pay Why Don’t We’s legal fees.
UPDATE: This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. EST on Sept. 9 to include a statement from the band.