Creative Artists Agency was hit with a lawsuit on Tuesday by a TV writer who accused the agency of stealing his pilot for a political drama and developing it with a higher-profile writer.
According to court papers obtained by TheWrap, John Musero, a former prosecutor and staff writer for Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” says he developed a pilot for a show that would follow the inner workings of the U.S. Attorney General’s office. The lawsuit says that CAA optioned the show, titled “Main Justice,” with the Mark Gordon Company but never developed it.
Musero says that CAA developed “Main Justice” in 2018 into a package presented to CBS, but with another writer, Sascha Penn, credited as creator. The suit says that both Musero’s pilot and the developed pilot ended with the attorney general facing an assassination attempt.
The lawsuit accuses CAA of breaching its fiduciary duty not only by developing “Main Justice” with another writer without his knowledge, but also by originally optioning Musero’s pilot for minimal pay to the writer by not offering the show to other studios while The Mark Gordon Company, which was also a CAA client, was considering its offer.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, also says a similar breach of fiduciary duty occurred when CAA “promised, then failed” to properly market Musero’s pitch for another show called “Influence” and to get Musero hired on another series after “The Newsroom” was cancelled.
Musero’s complaint comes as Hollywood agencies are in the midst of a tense dispute with the Writers Guild of America over packaging fees, which the guild says is also a breach of fiduciary duty by agencies and a conflict of interest. The dispute is noted in the lawsuit’s introduction, as well as the guild’s assertion that CAA and other agencies are guilty of “frequently representing both sides of a deal while favoring a bigger earning client at the expense of a smaller client,” an accusation also made in the lawsuit itself.
“This is a very important lawsuit at a very important time for writers in Hollywood,” said Musero’s attorney Stephen Doniger. “The WGA has raised serious and well-founded concerns about systemic violations of the fiduciary duties of CAA and other agencies. Given the refusal of the agencies to even acknowledge that they owe fiduciary duties to their clients, it is evident that the courts are going to have to address the issue.”
Legal reps for CAA denied the accusations in a statement sent to TheWrap and said that the agency will “vigorously defend” itself against the lawsuit.
“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,” the statement read.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report