Pop star Billy Joel on Wednesday filed a $90-million fraud and breach of contract suit against one of the music industry’s leading attorneys, Alan J. Grubman.
The suit alleges that Grubman’s firm, which represented Joel throughout the 1980s, defrauded the singer in conjunction with Joel’s former manager, Frank Weber. The Grubman firm is also accused of concealing a conflict of interest involving Joel’s record label, CBS.
Joel is seeking $30 million in compensatory damages and $60 million in punitive damages in the suit, filed in New York state court. He filed a similar suit against Weber, his former brother-in-law, in 1989. Weber and the Grubman firm were fired by Joel that same year.
Weber’s investments in thoroughbred horses and other businesses are also the focus of an FBI investigation that has Joel’s cooperation, according to the lawsuit. Weber could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The New York-based firm Grubman, Indursky, Schindler & Goldstein, whose clients include Madonna and Bruce Springsteen, denied any impropriety in a statement released by its attorney, Bertram Fields.
Fields said the suit reflects Joel’s frustration over his unsuccessful business dealings with Weber.
Fields also maintains that the Grubman firm was uninvolved in Joel’s business affairs outside of music.
Joel is not in financial trouble despite his troubled business dealings with Weber.
Joel’s suit, however, alleges that the Grubman firm “repeatedly breached” its duties to Joel by failing to inform him of financial irregularities involving Weber. According to the lawsuit, the Grubman firm paid kickbacks to Weber-controlled companies and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Weber partnerships in the 1980s in return for assurances of retaining Joel’s business, which brought more than $750,000 in fees to the firm in 1981.
At Weber’s behest, the Grubman firm repeatedly sought large advances and interest-free loans instead of higher royalty rates when negotiating Joel’s contracts with CBS, the suit charges, adding that CBS subsequently took a lien on the copyrights to Joel’s compositions.
Joel also accuses the Grubman firm of failing to inform him that it also represented CBS. Because of that conflict, the suit alleges, the Grubman firm said nothing to Joel when Weber loaned $300,000 of the singer’s money to an unnamed CBS executive for an apartment renovation.