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Lawsuit Blames Hollywood Talent Management Cartel for Diversity Woes

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 28, 2016 11:57 AM

You may have heard of a lawsuit against Hollywood's major talent agencies, blaming them for stifling diversity. But discrimination is not the real claim in the lawsuit, The Hollywood Reporter complains.

Bruce Lenhoff, an agent, sued major talent management agencies last year -- his competition -- for poaching his clients. Since filing, he has amended his complaint to allege discrimination results from lack of competition, a conspiracy by a cartel in Hollywood. But some say it's just a way for an antitrust suit to dress up as a case about discrimination, a timely topic in light of the "#OscarsSoWhite" scandal making headlines.

A Tangled Web

A year ago when Lenhoff sued his rivals, there was much less protest about discrimination in Hollywood. Now, with stars like Spike Lee, Will Smith, and Jada Pinkett Smith protesting the Oscars because no black actors received nominations for films in 2015 -- part of a greater problem of lack of diversity representation in film they say -- Lenhoff has amended his complaint.

He points to a change in law that allowed talent agencies to receive investments and invest in projects, rather than being independent. Lenhoff complains that, as a result, more money and power are concentrated in fewer hands.The agents then "stockpiled" talent to the detriment of smaller agencies, like Lenhoff's.

This is tied to diversity in hiring because, according to the amended lawsuit, "an increasing number of writers, actors, directors etc., especially in the diversity category, are finding it more difficult to obtain adequate representation." Lenhoff's lawsuit says the work for minorities is being stifled "where they are not the 'marquee' element driving the package."

Hollywood Not Buying It?

The Hollywood Reporter is wary of accepting this view of Lenhoff's suit, saying he is hopping on the diversity bandwagon when what really irks him is that bigger agencies stole clients from his boutique firm. The agent argues that the packaging of deals, including talent, by "uber agencies" makes them a cartel conspiring to get only their own people and projects hired and made. But THR seems unconvinced that he is fighting for any cause but that of his own firm.

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