As noted last fall, Penguin filed multiple lawsuits to recover advances from over a dozen authors whom the publisher says never delivered their manuscripts. With the merger with Random House completed last week, we wondered about the status of these lawsuits and discovered Penguin dropped more than half the complaints “with prejudice” – meaning each side was responsible for any legal fees incurred. (When reached for comment a Penguin spokesperson said “As was Penguin’s desire, many of the lawsuits have been settled amicably.”)
New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead was sued for $20,000 over a 2003 deal to collect her journalism; the suit was discontinued on October 28, 2012. (Her next book, MY LIFE IN MIDDLEMARCH, will be published by Crown next January.) Guardian columnist and original Wonkette Ana Marie Cox was sued for $81,250 (and at least $50,000 in interest) over a 2006 contract for the follow-up for her novel DOG DAYS; that suit was dropped on April 24. Elizabeth Wurtzel had been sued for $33,000 (and at least $7,500 in interest) over a book to help teenagers cope with depression. That suit was discontinued on June 24.
Other lawsuits Penguin dropped were against John Dizard (on November 15), Deborah Branscum (on October 28), Carol Guber (on November 29), and Lucy Siegel (on November 28). Lawsuits still pending are against Marguerite Kelly, Jamal Bryant, Tom O’Neill (filed separately in May 2013), and disgraced Holocaust memoirist Herman Rosenblat.
In the ongoing case of Reverend Conrad Tillard, who had been sued for $38,000 over a 2005 memoir deal about his “journey from the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam” and break with Louis Farrakhan (a memoir originally contracted for by HarperCollins before moving to Tarcher) the author countered on April 29 that he had, in fact, turned in the manuscript, and that Penguin should pay him a $28,333 contract payment. Penguin responded that Tillard’s demands had no merit or standing.
In separate legal news, Harper Lee’s copyright lawsuit against her former agent Sam Pinkus and various shell companies and associates spurred another round of litigation between Pinkus and his former employer McIntosh & Otis. Late last year M&O won a judgment of more than $850,000, including incurred interest, from Pinkus for secretly diverting royalty commissions from a number of clients (including Harper Lee, The Joy of Cooking, Noah Gordon, and Mary Higgins Clark) to Veritas Media.
In the agency’s newest complaint, filed on June 14 in New York Supreme Court, M&O asks the court to ensure Pinkus personally pays what is owed to them, since he had pled financial hardship on behalf of Veritas Media while diverting the funds to other shell companies such as Philologus Procurator, Inc., Nassau Marketing, and Keystone Literary, among others. M&O allege that Pinkus, his wife Leigh Ann Winick, and Gerald Posner “had been stripping Veritas clean of virtually all its assets” between 2007 and 2011 and consolidated those assets in PPI. “Obviously, PPI was organized to assume and carry on the business of Veritas under the fictitious guise of another entity, with the intent, plan, and purpose of placing the assets, property, and income of Veritas beyond the reach of its creditors, particularly M&O.”
M&O also officially disavow any knowledge of Lee signing away her copyright to To Kill a Mockingbird to Pinkus or any of his shell companies “until early 2013.” HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, publishers for To Kill a Mockingbird and The Joy of Cooking, respectively, are also named as defendants “to bar [them] from remitting money to Veritas pending satisfaction of M&O’s judgment.”