A talent agency with a significant celebrity clientele is suing a former employee, alleging he used the skills he was taught there against the company by diverting business to a competing business he formed before abruptly quitting in September.
Todd Shemarya Artists Inc. brought the complaint Monday against Micah Pittard and his firm, New Standard Branding. The allegations include breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, intentional interference with contract and prospective economic advantage and theft.
“Driven by greed and a lack of ethics, Pittard used his position as an employee of TSA with access to the company’s files and information to divert and siphon-off TSA’s business opportunities and clients for his own benefit … in violation of TSA’s rights,” the Los Angeles Superior Court suit states.
A representative for Pittard could not be immediately reached.
TSA seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages as well as a declaration that Pittard return more than $54,000 in salary as well as monies made from former TSA clients that were allegedly diverted to New Standard Branding.
TSA represents celebrity clients in developing and negotiating brand and endorsement deal opportunities. Pittard was hired in 2010 as an assistant and was taught about the endorsement talent agency business and how to be a talent agent, the suit states. He agreed not to disclose confidential information to third parties, according to the suit.
Pittard was promoted to a junior talent agent and worked for about 10 years under supervision in developing brand and endorsement deals for clients, the suit states.
In early July, Pittard, working under TSA’s talent license, was denied a raise due to poor performance and judgment that included, among other issues, communications that included a series of “semi-incoherent and belligerent texts,” the suit states. Management spoke to Pittard and gave him chances to improve, the suit states.
Soon thereafter, Pittard registered New Standard Branding with the Secretary of State’s Office and he applied for a talent agency license, which was granted about Sept. 22, the suit states. Pittard then, “clandestinely commenced” using his new company email to conduct business, while still a TSA employee and operating under its license, to divert opportunities, deals, communications, TSA emails and clients from TSA to himself and New Standard Branding, the suit alleges.
Among the celebrity clients whose business deals originated with TSA and were diverted to New Standard Branding are “Crazy Rich Asians” star Henry Golding, “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm, “Guiding Light” actress Brittany Snow, pop singer Kelsea Ballerini, singer/actress Sabrina Carpenter and British actress Ella Balinska, according to the suit.
While TSA does not claim that prior clients cannot leave the agency, any brand opportunities that originated during representation by the company entitles it to 100% of a 10% commission on such deals, the suit states.
In mid-September, Pittard went to TSA’s office at a time he knew he would be alone and finished forwarding information and copying records, then cleaned out his office, the suit states.
“In an amateurish, ill-conceived attempt to cover his tracks and hide his wrongful, tortious conduct and scheme, Pittard erased his entire TSA company mailbox … and wiped his office computer hard drive, intentionally destroying company data in the process,” the suit alleges.
TSA had paid Pittard more than $54,000 from July 1 to Sept. 15, plus benefits, at the same time he was “engaged in self-dealing and secretly and fraudulently directed his time, energies and resources, for his own competing, personal interests and development of his own competing venture,” the suit alleges.
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