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Models Sue New York Agencies for $20 Million

Sketchy Deal: Inside New York's $20 Million Model Agency Lawsuit

Some of New York's top modeling agencies are named in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that alleges they've used shady accounting practices to hold onto money they should have paid their models.

A group of models claiming that Ford, Wilhelmina, Elite, and Women, among others — as well as brands like L'Oréal, Aveda, and Revlon — have withheld hefty portions of their royalties. Louisa Raske, a model who appeared on the May/June 2005 cover of Brides, at left, is leading the class action suit and seeks $20 million in damages. Her 19-page summons claims that these agencies commonly work on the models' behalf without the models knowing it, and arrange deals "as if the modeling agencies had contacted the models and had the legal authority to execute the documents."

The suit goes on to say that "since the models are unaware of the extended/expanded usages for which the modeling agencies have negotiated and received payment on their behalf . . . the models never demand or receive payment, and at the very least, the modeling agencies are unjustly enriched by the models' funds."

Raske's suit also claims that in a similar case decided in 2005, some models were told they would "never again model in New York" if they sued their agencies. The models in that case won a $22 million settlement.

Representatives for Ford and Wilhelmina did not respond to requests for comment on this post. But Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University and a board member of the Model Alliance, told us that model payment has been an issue for quite some time.

"Models have repeatedly expressed concern about lack of transparency in agency accounting practices," Scafidi said in an email. "While some agencies are more conscientious and professional than others, a lawsuit was perhaps inevitable — though the scale of this one is quite dramatic."

A full list of the defendants in this case can be found below.

Modeling Agencies:

  • Next Management LLC
  • Wilhelmina Models Inc.
  • Wilhelmina International Ltd.
  • Ford Models Inc.
  • Elite Model Management — New York LLC
  • DNA Model Management LLC
  • IMG Models Inc.
  • Trump Model Management LLC
  • MC2 dba aka Karin Models of New York LLC
  • Major Model Management Inc.
  • Silent Models LLC
  • Fusion Model Management Inc.
  • Marilyn Model Management Inc.
  • 1 Management LLC
  • Red Model Management Inc.
  • Request Model Management Inc.
  • Supreme Model Management LLC
  • VNY Model Management Inc.
  • Men Women NY Model Management Inc.
  • APM Models Inc.
  • Q Model Management dba aka New York Model Management Inc.
  • Click Model Management Inc.
  • S Model Management LLC
  • Elite Model Management Corporation
  • NYC Management Group Inc.

Advertising Agencies:

  • McCann-Erickson USA Inc.
  • McCann-Erickson Corporation
  • Ogilvy + Mather Partners Inc.
  • Publicis Inc.
  • Laird + Partners New York LLC
  • Leo Burnett Company Inc.
  • Saatchi + Saatchi North America Inc.
  • Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners Inc.

Beauty Brands:

  • L'Oréal USA Inc.
  • Revlon Inc.
  • Garnier LLC
  • Coty Inc.
  • Aveda Corporation
  • Sephora USA Inc.
  • Maybelline LLC.
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