Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

Johnny Depp Voids Fee Deal With Lawyer, Wants $30 Million Back

Actor Johnny Depp can void an attorney's fee agreement with his former lawyer, a judge ruled.

Attorney Jacob Bloom wanted a percentage of the actor's earnings, and went to work on a "handshake." But Judge Terry Green said the contingency-fee agreement should have been in writing under California's Business and Professions Code.

Now the star of "Pirates of the Caribbean" wants his money back -- $30 million -- on the handshake deal. After all, as they say in the movies, the Pirate's Code is really more guidelines than actual rules.

The Code

B&P Code Section 6147, the judge said, governed the attorney-client transaction. The code says a contingency fee "contract shall be in writing," and if not the agreement is voidable.

Bloom argued that Depp ratified the deal, but the judge said there was no legal authority for ratification of a voidable contingency fee agreement. The attorney can still make a case for the reasonable value of his services, however.

Depp said the fees were not reasonable. Bloom said he spent thousands of hours working for the actor.

The decision could have "sweeping impacts across Hollywood," according to reports.

"Sweeping Impact"

The Hollywood Reporter said that handshake deals are common in the entertainment business. Now talent lawyers may need to rethink that practice, the trade publication said.

Judge Green said as much in explaining his ruling from the bench. He said there are no special rules for show business.

"I grew up in a show business family," he said. "I'm aware that show business people think they live in a separate universe, but they don't. Not a separate legal universe."

So apparently the Pirate's Code doesn't apply in Hollywood.

Related Resources: