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Entertainment & Arts

Selling Stardom: Talent listing firm is set to settle legal case

Selling Stardom

“It is discouraging that it is so tough to get a settlement in these kinds of cases and I was glad to get one here,” said Jeffrey Wilens, an attorney representing One Source Talent customer Briana Keen.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

A talent listing service would have to pay about $1.6 million — including cash and services — to resolve a case affecting thousands of former clients under a class-action settlement preliminarily approved by a federal judge in Los Angeles.

The company, One Source Talent of Troy, Mich., charges people a monthly fee of $40 to access a database of audition and employment opportunities in the entertainment industry. One of its customers, Briana Keen, 24, of Running Springs filed a civil suit against it in 2014, contending the company used an improper contract that violated the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act.

One Source did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement agreement tentatively approved this week by U.S. District Court judge James V. Selna.

Anthony Toma, the owner of One Source, said it made sense to settle the case because of the expense associated with defending a class action. “Our settlement is not an admission of liability but simply a business decision,” he said.

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Under the terms approved in a preliminary decision by Selna, about 8,100 people who used One Source from April 14, 2010, to May 31, 2015, would get three months of free use of One Source, a service valued at $974,640.

Class members who submit a claim form will also be entitled to a share of $611,000, after deductions for legal fees and costs. That could come out to about $130 per person, according to court records. Additionally, about 120 other One Source clients who wanted to cancel their accounts but were denied a refund will get $500 each.

“I’m glad that I was able to help the people who used this company,” said attorney Jeffrey Wilens, who represents Keen. “It is discouraging that it is so tough to get a settlement in these kinds of cases and I was glad to get one here.”

One Source was the subject of a Times story in December that examined alleged abuses by talent listing services and explored their role in the Hollywood economy. These companies, and others in the business of working with talent, have come under increased scrutiny from state legislators, who’ve passed at least five laws since 2000 to prevent mistreatment.

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The settlement is scheduled for final approval in June.

The Krekorian Act went into effect in 2010. It regulates talent representatives and companies that work with actors, models and musicians. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has prosecuted six cases under the law.

The legislation was spearheaded by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian when he was a state assemblyman. The law makes it illegal for listing services to charge clients for auditions and requires that they make clear — in written contracts that include boldface type — that they are not talent agencies, among other provisions.

Krekorian said in a statement to The Times that he hoped Keen’s case would inspire other people who have been allegedly wronged to “seek civil redress.”

“This case is important because it highlights that private individuals, on their own, can go after agents and companies that scam the public, whether or not there is also a criminal prosecution happening,” he said.

In addition to providing information about auditions, listing services typically offer to promote their clients on a Web page with a photograph, resume and reel. They often require an initial payment of up to $600 and monthly fees that range from $20 to $40.

The website for One Source, which until recently had an office in West L.A., proclaims “no more what ifs” and promises “we make dreams come true.”

But Keen’s lawsuit alleges that One Source used a contract that did not have a Krekorian Act-complaint cancellation policy and did not follow rules stipulating how a listing service must make clear in a contract that it is not a talent agency.

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Toma said his company denied wrongdoing. This fall, One Source’s West L.A. office closed and later reopened as Nine9 the UnAgency. Toma said that One Source had rebranded as Nine9.

The renamed company is “geared at educating the consumer,” Toma said. “We provide service to the estimated 99% of aspiring actors, models and other entertainment industry professionals who are unable to secure a contract with an agency.”

daniel.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @DanielNMiller

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