Michael Moore, controversial director of documentaries like Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, is suing the Weinstein Brothers producing team for $2.7 million.
Moore claims Harvey and Bob Weinstein used “Hollywood accounting tricks” and “financial deception” to swindle Moore out of Fahrenheit 9/11 profits, reports THR.
The initial agreement was for the profits to be split 50/50: half for Moore and the other half for the Weinsteins and an “affiliated entity” called the Fellowship Adventure Group. But Moore says the two groups diverted monies and hid them.
In 2008, Moore conducted an audit on the 2004 documentary, which grossed $222 million, exploring the Bush administration. The lawsuit claims that the investigation revealed “substantial irregularities in the accounting” and a “gross underpayment to [Moore].”
Such irregularities include “an alleged secret deduction of $2.5 million in revenue that the Weinstiens claimed was paid to acquire an interest owned in the film by a predecessor company called Icon Entertainment International.” Additionally, the audit discovered an “override fee” on advertising costs that totaled $1.2 million, even though the deal allowed no such deduction, and the Weinsteins were not directly affected by the fee. Other improper deductions of fees include payments to “distribution consultants, accountants, residuals, foreign taxes and travel expenses” like a jet carrying a single passenger to Europe.
The Weinsteins’ lawyer, Bert Fields, dismissed the accusations in an interview with THR. “The Weinsteins have paid everything they should have paid..Mr. Moore has received a huge amount of money from this film and we believe he is overreaching. He should be ashamed of himself.”
The suit has actually been around a while; for six months, both sides have been discussing their respective arguments. Fields says, “We’ve had a number of meetings and have kicked around their arguments and ours, and they have a lot of problems with their claims.”
The lawyer for Moore, Larry Stein, responded by saying, “Independent auditors determined that Michael was owed these monies…Apparently it’s the Weinsteins who were unhappy with the millions of dollars they have already received.”
Even though Moore has received roughly $20 million from Fahrenheit 9/11, the suit claims the the Weinsteins haven’t produced all the relevant financial information. Once that occurs, the actual total could be “much higher.”
Stein issued the following statement:
An independent auditor came in and discovered that the Weinsteins had re-routed at least $2.7 million dollars that belonged to Michael Moore from “Fahrenheit 9/11.” This is the first time Michael Moore has ever sued anyone in his 20-yr career as a filmmaker. That should be some indication about how serious this is. It’s very sad it had to come to this. Michael believes the Weinsteins have been a force for good when it comes to championing independent film — but that does not give them the right to violate a contract and take money that isn’t theirs. The $2.7 million is just the floor of what we believe is owed. When this goes to discovery I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of what was taken goes much, much higher.