The Lillehammer gold medalist says the agency and a small army of reps brazenly siphoned her earnings for nearly 20 years
Ukranian figure skater Oksana Baiul has sued WME and a long list of plaintiffs — including several agents, accountants and the Screen Actors Guild — for a total of more than $170 million, alleging widespread fraud and theft of millions of dollars she says she earned in the years-long media blitz that followed her gold medal performance at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Filed Tuesday in New York's state Supreme Court, the lawsuit levels 18 counts including racketeering, breach of contract, fraudulent concealment and intentional misrepresentation.
Baiul originally sued WME last year in Superior Court in Los Angeles, but dismissed that action — which only sought $1 million in compensatory damages and more in punitive damages — before re-filing her much broader case in New York, which was obtained Friday by TheWrap.
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The case alleges that beginning in 1994, when Baiul became a household name at age 16, William Morris (before its merger with Endeavor) and a small army of agents, accountants and attorneys took advantage of her age and lack of English skills, swooping in to represent her and then concealing or outright stealing tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
Bauil's lawsuit says she only became aware of the alleged longstanding theft and fraud after hiring a new accountant in 2011, who began trying to collect her due from the agency and the associated companies.
WME did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment Friday. The defendants have 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.
Baiul, who now lives in Bucks County, Penn., claims in the suit that the theft began when she was whisked to a training facility in Connecticut after her win and had her passport taken away — just as several agencies swooped in to represent her budding media career. Besides never being properly compensated for her promotion of the facility, Baiul alleges that she was never paid, or was severely underpaid, for a broad range of appearances including films, TV and public ice-skating performances.
She's seeking a series of damage amounts specific to the various defendants, ranging from $56 million and interest from WME, five of its agents and several promotional companies who dealt with the agency during her earning years; $41 million-plus-interest from those and other entities; and no less than $1 million from SAG.
Because of her entertainment activities, Baiul was a member of the guild – which she claims in the lawsuit “acted in an arbitrary and/or discriminatory manner” toward her by failing to credit her for her work, resulting in the loss of benefits and pensions.
The various damage claims, including interest, total more than $170 million, according to the court filing.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.