Paradigm Fires Back at Former Agent’s Lawsuit, Says Fight Should Be in Arbitration

Chief Sam Gores’ former assistant says he “never used Paradigm funds to pay for any prostitutes.”

Paradigm fired back at former literary agency Debbee Klein’s lawsuit filed April 2 with a fiery rebuttal on Thursday (April 9) accusing her of stabbing agency chairman Sam Gores in the back and lying about his behavior during contract negotiations. Over the course of a 20-page motion filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Paradigm attorneys offer a highly detailed and often angry point-by-point defense, calling Klein’s claims “self-aggrandizing and delusional.”

Paradigm’s lawyers argue Klein should be forced to mediate her claims in arbitration, a forum that many say gives an unfair advantage to employers while silencing people who speak out. Lawyers for Paradigm say Klein agreed to settle disputes in arbitration when she signed her employee agreement in 2015. Klein says she and 200 employees were let go last month in a surprise round of layoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic, while she still had an oral agreement to work at Paradigm for two more years — a claim the agency disputes.

Klein is “not some hero fighting on behalf of all workers impacted by the pandemic,” Paradigm’s attorney Dale F. Kinsella writes. “Instead, Klein is a multi-millionaire Hollywood Agent — who as an agent at Paradigm made millions of dollars just last year. She has more than sufficient funds to weather the coronavirus pandemic in luxury.”

Klein’s attorney, well known Hollywood litigator Bryan Freeman immediately fired back, telling Billboard, “Since disingenuously declaring a ‘force majeure’ and terminating/reducing hundreds of employees based on its ‘financial inability’ to perform on its contracts, suddenly, Paradigm has found millions of dollars to do everything possible to try and clean up Sam’s reputation.”

Freeman continued to claim agents and staff were “either suspended without pay, suffered salary reductions or were terminated,” while millions of dollars have been spent on an “after-the-fact-fund” and lawyers — “instead of on their own contractual rights to payments and health insurance during this pandemic.”

“Given these facts, it seems more like force manure than force majeure,” Freeman added.

A spokesperson for Paradigm said Klein and Freeman are the reason the agency has to hire lawyers and PR firms to defend itself, adding, “This has not involved anywhere near a million dollars, let alone millions of dollars.”

Klein isn’t the only reason Gores and Paradigm are building up their defensives. More lawsuits are possible from the other roughly 200 employees who were let go. Steve Zollo, a partner at Platinum Equity — the firm owned by Gores’ brother and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores — has taken an active role at Paradigm as a consultant, a spokesperson confirmed. To help repair its image, Paradigm has also hired two well known crisis PR managers — Howard Bragman and Michael Sitrick, both of whom have worked with the agency and the Gores family for a number of years.

As for those left at the agency, the fight with Klein has become a strange sideshow during one of the most difficult periods in the company’s history. The music-centric agency has had to work to reroute thousands of shows because of coronavirus shutdowns and most agents have been forced to take pay cuts, some as high as 50%.

“It’s both amusing and embarrassing,” says one agent about the headline-drive battle, who wished to remain anonymous. Klein and Gores are former friends and colleagues for more than 20 years now locked in an increasingly bitter battle, with Gores’ attorney Kinsella accusing Klein of using an “Uzi-like complaint only notable for its mendacity” to hurt her “former mentor, boss.”

“Remarkably, Klein has the lack of self-awareness to accuse Gores in the complaint of being someone who ‘cannot be trusted,’” Kinsella writes, calling Klein “untrustworthy” herself.

Paradigm’s motion on Thursday includes a declaration from Gore’s former assistant — whose name was redacted — denying that “Sam (Gores) had asked me to procure prostitutes for him or anyone else, or that he used Paradigm funds to pay for any prostitutes.” The former assistant also denied telling Klein that Gores had met with hookers and described the literary agent as an “office bully”

Paradigm also attacked Klein’s accusation Gores asked her to secretly loan the agency $500,000 to mislead the agency’s lenders, saying the claim was “nonsense” adding “Paradigm has always been fully transparent with its lenders. Moreover, the idea that $500,000 in Klein’s salary alone would have made any meaningful difference to Paradigm’s lenders is implausible.”

As for claims that Gores reneged on a verbal agreement with Klein, Paradigm argues that Klein’s contract was suspended while the two sides negotiated a new contract. The filing adds that the longtime literary agent allegedly had a “difficult history at Paradigm” and had previously “agreed on multiple occasions that she would arbitrate all disputes with Paradigm.”