Judge Fashions Model Price Fixing Suit Into Class Action Status

July 16, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Models that have claimed overstated commission fees and expenses at some of New York's largest modeling agencies have been granted class action status in their recent complaint filing.

US District Judge Harold Baer granted class action status to the complaint, which alleges the talent agencies fixed models’ commission rates at twice the 10% allowed by New York state law for employment agencies. Additionally, the models claim the agencies took it one step further, going in cahoots with each other to avoid state pricing regulations by labeling themselves “model management companies,” according to a Reuters report.

Among the agencies named as defendants in the suit were Elite Model Management and Ford Models Inc. Elite models include actress Lara Flynn Boyle as well as President Bush’s niece Lauren Bush. Ford represents models such as Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Frederique and Rachel Hunter.

What remains to be seen is if any specific model would be part of the class, which depends upon whether or not they were under an alleged illegal contract. Ultimately, the class is expected to be made up of thousands of models.

Not surprisingly, the defendants denied wrongdoing, arguing against class action status on several grounds including that the plaintiffs did not allegedly suffer the same impact and that a class action would not be the best way to proceed.

Yet Baer disagreed, finding “all of the class members share a common interest in proving the existence, scope and effect of the defendants’ ongoing price fixing, which allegedly led to inflated and unlawful commission rates and expenses.” The law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner was appointed lead counsel for the case.

Elite has spent a lot of time in the courtroom as of late. In May, a New York jury awarded $5.27 million to an ex-employee who claimed the office’s liberal smoking policy caused an aggravation of her asthma. The state Supreme Court jury awarded the money to the plaintiff after finding that Elite subjected her to a hostile work environment and fired her because of her asthma and her complaints (See Worker Wins $5 Million Jury Award on Second Hand Smoking Charges ).