Well, here’s a little bit of legal news that we were first made aware of late last week. Six storyboard illustrators have been awarded $1.7 million in damages after a jury found that the artists’ agent has been underpaying them for nearly a decade.
The agent at the center of the case is Brian “BJ” Martin, sole owner of Jersey/New York-based Greenlight Studios, who has been ordered to make the payments after the conclusion of a two-year civil court case involving nearly $10 million in bills paid by more than a dozen agencies, including BBDO, Euro RSCG, Grey, JWT, McCann-Erickson, Mullen, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi and Uproar!.
The illustrators/plaintiffs, who first discovered the underpayments in 2010, include Thomas Fluharty, Ray Ketchem, Kevin Sacco, Tim Shinn, John Wohland and Shelley Williams. According to the case file,, Greenlight failed to live up to the artists’ contract and Martin spent their money for his personal use, including the purchase of and upgrades to his family’s $1.45 million New Jersey residence. Additionally, in some cases, Greenlight and Martin billed and received payment from agencies for completed work, but never paid the artists at all, claiming payment was never received.
The underpayments occurred from 2002-2010 and involved storyboard development for a few brands and campaigns you might recognize including McCann Erickson’s “Can you hear me now?” for Verizon and BBDO’s “More bars in more places” for AT&T. We’ve reached out to the illustrators’ attorney Robert Zeller for comment on the case. In the meantime, you can check some screen grabs of the judgment made by New Jersey Superior Court’s Sebastian T. Lombardi after the jump. As you can imagine, the artists are no longer working with Greenlight and BJ Martin.