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CAA sued by writer who claims agency stole TV pilot idea

CAA sued by writer who claims agency stole TV pilot idea
A view of Creative Artists Agency headquarters in Century City. (Los Angeles Times)

Creative Artists Agency is being sued by a writer who claims that the Hollywood talent agency stole his TV show idea by giving the project to a higher-profile writer client in a move that would be more lucrative for the agency.

John Musero, formerly a writer on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” alleges in a complaint filed this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court that his agents at CAA went behind his back and gave his legal drama pilot “Main Justice” to another client, Sascha Penn, who has a longer list of writing credits including the recent movie “Creed II.”

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The agency then sold the show to CBS, with Jerry Bruckheimer as an executive producer, according to the suit. Bruckheimer is also a CAA client.

Musero is alleging that CAA breached its fiduciary duty to him by marginalizing him and prioritizing more lucrative clients at his expense. He is seeking unspecified damages.

CAA denied the allegations through an attorney. “While Mr. Musero has not been a client for some time, CAA protected and advanced his interests when he was a client, and any suggestion that its agents acted improperly is inaccurate,” said Craig Holden, a partner at Lewis Brisbois, in a statement. “CAA will vigorously defend itself against Mr. Musero’s lawsuit.”

The suit comes in the midst of a bitter fight between Hollywood writers and talent agencies over issues including packaging fees. The dispute has put the Writers Guild of America on a collision course with the agencies, with guild members threatening to fire their agents if they don’t agree to curtail certain practices that writers see as conflicts of interest.

Musero’s suit also alleges that CAA breached its duty on another TV pilot he wrote, titled “Influence.”

The suit states that CAA arranged a meeting between him and Storyline Entertainment — another CAA client — to discuss the pilot. During the months that ensued, Musero alleges he asked CAA if the pilot should be shopped to other potential buyers, but his requests went unanswered.

Storyline eventually lost interest in the project, according to the suit. Musero contends that CAA prevented “Influence” from being offered to potential bidders, driving down its value.

Musero filed a separate copyright lawsuit nearly a decade ago against the makers of the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “Bruno,” claiming a scene from the movie was lifted from a script he had written. A federal judge eventually dismissed the suit.

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