Recording Academy fires president/CEO Deborah Dugan; she files EEOC complaint alleging rape and wrongful termination

January 21, 2020

by Colleen McGregor

The Recording Academy’s ouster of its first female president/CEO, Deborah Dugan (after she was on the job for only five months), has resulted in Dugan filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint with some bombshell allegations, including accusations that top-ranking officials engaged in sexual abuse/harassment and corruption. The Recording Academy (the organization behind the Grammy Awards) announced Dugan’s “administrative leave” ouster on January 16, 2019, and her complaint was filed on January 21, 2020. In the complaint, Dugan alleges that she heard from a Recording Academy employee that Neil Portnow, who was the Recording Academy’s president/CEO from 2002 to 2019, raped an unnamed female artist after the artist performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The artist is only described as a Recording Academy member who’s not from the United States. The year this alleged incident occurred was not included in the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that several unnamed people in the Recording Academy knew that Portnow engaged in sexual misconduct with other women, who are also unnamed. Dugan further claims that Recording Academy executive attorney Neil Fox sexually harassed Dugan by trying to forcibly kiss her and repeatedly calling her “baby.” Dugan’s other allegations are that the Recording Academy engages in corruption in the Grammy voting process and that certain board members overspend and abuse the Recording Academy’s funding.

According to the complaint, the alleged rape was the real reason why the Recording Academy announced in May 2018 that Portnow would be stepping down from the position. After the Grammy Awards in January 2018, Portnow received extensive criticism for saying in a post-Grammys press conference that female artists and producers needed to “step up” if they wanted to be nominated for and win more Grammys. The overwhelming majority of nominees and winners at the 2018 Grammys were men, as are the majority of the Recording Academy’s voting members. Portnow later made a public apology for the “step up” comment, and the Recording Academy formed the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, consisting primarily of women and people of color. Prior to Portnow announcing his resignation, Portnow was accused of mishandling Recording Academy funds for the 2018 MusiCares event. He denied the allegations.

After a year-long search for Portnow’s successor, Dugan was appointed to the Recording Academy’s CEO position, and her official start date was August 1, 2019. According to Showbiz 411, Portnow’s former executive assistant Claudine Little was preparing to file a lawsuit against Duggan for creating an abusive work environment. Unnamed sources also told Showbiz 411 that Dugan’s management style was arrogant, dismissive and not well-received by longtime staffers and board members. Meanwhile, other unnamed sources told Variety that Dugan was forced out by a coup from Recording Academy board members who feared they would lose their positions and perks after Dugan did an audit of the Recording Academy’s finances and was planning to make sweeping changes.

Until a permanent replacement has been announced, Recording Academy board chair Harvey Mason Jr. has been appointed interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy. On January 20, 2020, Mason issued a statement to the Recording Academy’s membership. In the statement, Mason revealed that in November 2019, allegations began that Dugan was creating a hostile and toxic work environment. According to Mason’s statement, the Recording Academy launched two separate, independent investigations, and Dugan “was placed on administrative leave as we complete both of these ongoing investigations.”

Meanwhile, Public Enemy co-founder Chuck D posted an open letter on his Instagram account, in which he expressed support for Dugan. Chuck D commented in the statement: “I salute Deborah Dugan for her truth and courage to try and effect change. As always, a bunch of ignorant, testosterone-fueled, usually old white men stop progress.”

Dugan, a former Wall Street attorney, has held executive positions in various areas of the entertainment industry, including executive VP of EMI Record Group; president of Disney Publishing Worldwide; and president/CEO of the British broadcaster Entertainment Rights. Prior to joining the Recording Academy, Dugan was CEO of (RED), the nonprofit co-founded in 2006 by U2 singer Bono and attorney/activist Bobby Shriver. Dugan also served as senior adviser to the Tribeca Enterprises Board and headed legal services for Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Her attorneys Doug Wigdor and Michael Willeman issued this statement on January 21, 2020: “The complaint that we filed today against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammys) highlights tactics reminiscent of those deployed by individuals defending Harvey Weinstein.  As we allege, the attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the character of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity. This blatant form of retaliation in corporate America is all too common, even post #MeToo, and we will utilize all lawful means necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

The statement continues, “As alleged, from the very beginning of her employment as the Recording Academy’s first female CEO and President, Ms. Dugan complained about and attempted to remedy the lack of diversity, sexual harassment and other improprieties at the Academy (which were gender based), including egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members, voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards and other misconduct. In response to her complaints, as alleged, the Academy unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Dugan by placing her on administrative leave (only after she indicated her intent to commence legal action and refused to settle her claims on terms dictated by the Academy), threatening Ms. Dugan with termination and publishing false and defamatory statements about Ms. Dugan to the media.  Moreover, as of just yesterday, as alleged, the Academy’s interim CEO and President, Harvey Mason Jr., penned and published a false, retaliatory and defamatory letter designed to ‘get out in front’ of this Charge and further destroy Ms. Dugan’s reputation.”

During all of this controversy, the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony is set to take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. CBS will have the U.S. telecast of the show, which will be hosted by Alicia Keys for the second year in a row. It will be the last Grammy Awards executive produced by Ken Ehrlich, who served as executive producer of the Grammys for the past 40 years. Ehrlich, who will still work in television, will be replaced as Grammy Awards show executive producer by Ben Winston, who also executive produces the CBS talk show “The Late, Late Show With James Corden.” Corden hosted the Grammy Awards in 2017 and 2018.

UPDATE: Portnow and Fox have publicly denied all the allegations made against them in Dugan’s complaint.

Fleetwood Mac fires Lindsey Buckingham, hires Neil Finn and Mike Campbell

April 24, 2018

by John Larson

Fleetwood Mac has parted ways with longtime singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. The band has hired former Crowded House singer/guitarist Neil Finn and former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell to join Fleetwood Mac for the band’s 2018 tour, which is expected to launch in the autumn. According to Rolling Stone, Buckingham was let go from Fleetwood Mac over disagreements on when he would be willing to start the  tour. Buckingham reportedly wanted the tour to be delayed to 2019. Fleetwood Mac’s last performance with Buckingham was at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on January 26, 2018, when Fleetwood Mac was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year. Fleetwood Mac was the first band to receive this honor.

Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, who were previously the duo Buckingham Nicks, joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974, when the lineup consisted of original members drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and singer/keyboardist Christine McVie, who was John’s wife at the time. With Buckingham and Nicks in the band, Fleetwood Mac had an unbroken string of hit albums, starting with with the band’s self-titled 1975 album until 1987’s “Tango in the Night.” Fleetwood Mac’s Grammy-winning 1977 album, “Rumours,” which remains the band’s biggest hit, was recorded during the breakups of the romantic relationships of the McVies and Buckingham/Nicks. Over the years, Buckingham became Fleetwood Mac’s unofficial music director.

Buckingham, who launched a solo career in 1981, quit Fleetwood Mac in 1987, and rejoined the band in 1997 for the live reunion album “The Dance.” He sang lead vocals on the Fleetwood Mac songs that he wrote, such as “Go Your Own Way,” “Second Hand News,” “Tusk” and “Big Love.” In 2017, Buckingham and Christine McVie teamed up for an album titled “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” and toured in support of the album.

Fleetwood Mac issued this statement about Campbell and Finn joining the band: “We are thrilled to welcome the musical talents of the caliber of Mike Campbell and Neil Finn into the Mac family. With Mike and Neil, we’ll be performing all the hits that the fans love, plus we’ll be surprising our audiences with some tracks from our historic catalogue of songs. Fleetwood Mac has always been a creative evolution. We look forward to honoring that spirit on this upcoming tour.”

There’s no word yet if Campbell and Finn will record a studio album with Fleetwood Mac, which has not released a studio album of new songs since 2003’s “Say You Will.”

October 11, 2018 UPDATE: Buckingham has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Fleetwood Mac, claiming he was wrongfully dismissed from the band. He is seeking millions in damages to compensate for the income he would have gotten from the band’s 2018 tour and other revenue sources, according to Variety. Fleetwood Mac’s publicist issued this statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Fleetwood Mac strongly disputes the allegations presented in Mr. Buckingham’s complaint and looks forward to their day in court. The band has retained Dan Petrocelli to handle the case.”

December 8, 2018 UPDATE: The lawsuit between Buckingham Fleetwood Mac has been settled. In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Buckingham said that his ouster from Fleetwood Mac “hurt” for few months after it happened. He also said he found out he was fired when Fleetwood Mac manager Irving Azoff called Buckingham up in a surprise phone call and allegedly screamed at him: “Stevie Nicks never wants to be on stage with you again!” Buckingham added that his current relationship with Nicks (who was his girlfriend for most of the 1970s) is “fragmented,” but that Fleetwood Mac keyboardist Christine McVie emailed him to say that McVie missed him and had nothing to do with the idea to kick him out of the band. Buckingham also claims that McVie also told him in the email that, deep down, Nicks misses Buckingham too, and eventually wants him back in the band. However, Buckingham said in the interview that it is doubtful that he will reunite with Fleetwood Mac.

Prescription pet food companies hit with class-action lawsuit

February 2, 2017

Photo courtesy of Pope McGlamry
(Photo courtesy of Pope McGlamry)

Several major companies that sell “prescription” pet food have been hit with a class-action lawsuit that claims consumers were overcharged for four food brands: Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina’s Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin’s Veterinary Diet; and Iams’ Veterinary Formula.

The defendant pet food manufacturers in the case are Mars Petcare US, Inc. , which sells prescription pet food under the brand names Royal Canin and Iams; Nestle Purina Petcare, Co. ; and Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.

Additional defendants include PetSmart, Inc.; Medical Management International, Inc.; and BluePearl Vet, LLC.  PetSmart is a major retail seller of prescription pet foods.  Banfield Pet Hospital is the largest chain of veterinary clinics in the United States, and typically operates out of PetSmart.  BluePearl Vet Hospital is the largest chain of veterinary emergency care clinics in the United States.  Pet food manufacturer Mars has a majority ownership stake in Banfield Pet Hospital and wholly owns BluePearl Vet Hospital.

The law firms Pope McGlamry, Ward and Smith, Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger and Gray Plant Mooty filed the lawsuit in December 2016.

According to a press release issued by Pop McGlamry:

“Prescription pet food is dog and cat food that is sold to the consumer with a prescription from a veterinarian.  However, the prescription requirement comes from the manufacturers and sellers and is not mandated by federal or any other law.  There is no legal mandate for a prescription from the FDA or any other government agency.  Furthermore, there is no significant difference between pet food sold by prescription and regular pet food sold without a prescription, other than a significant price differential.  There are no drugs or medicines in prescription pet food, and the FDA has made no assessments of these products.

“Counsel for the class members assert that pet food manufacturers, and their affiliates, have deceptively marketed this pet food as requiring a prescription, and have colluded to create a market for prescription pet food and to sell this food at prices higher than the prices of regular pet food.

“Consumers who have purchased any of these prescription pet foods over the past three years are urged to be part of this class action lawsuit to recover the money they overpaid, along with additional damages. ”

The lawsuit documents can be viewed as a PDF file here.

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