Grammy-winning artist H.E.R. wants to be released from her contract with record label MBK Entertainment.
H.E.R., whose real name is Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, filed legal documents on Thursday, June 16, in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles County to have her label MBK Entertainment hand over the rights to her music catalog.
The label is owned by her longtime manager Jeff Robinson whom she signed with in 2011 at age 14. According to her legal documents, the California native is suing Robinson for shady business practices, including firing her lawyers who previously handled her contracts and hiring his own to manage deals involving her.
Aside from wanting the contract to be dissolved, H.E.R. wants declaratory relief for
violation of the business and professions code.
One of her accusations against Robinson is that as her manager, he fired the first law firm hired to represent her. It’s unclear if she or her parents/guardians had hired this law firm.
The documents went on to say that thereafter, “Robinson caused his own lawyers to represent Wilson in the negotiation of subsequent contracts, including publishing and touring agreements.”
She explained that the lawyers received monies from the deals they struck, and so did Robinson.
“Those lawyers took 5% of the deals they negotiated, but did not have a written fee agreement or a conflict waiver signed by Wilson, and said that they performed the services ‘as a favour’ to their client Robinson who was paid 20% commission for each of those deals,” the document said.
As part of the deal, H.E.R. claims that she is “significantly limited” when it comes to her “employment rights” by Robinson’s company and that she MBK practically controls everything.
“She has not been free to provide her recording services except as permitted or dictated by MBK.” She added that MBK “has exclusively owned the right to exploit her name and likeness for her recordings.”
The artist went on to say that her agreement with MBK violated California Labour Code and was beyond what was agreed upon. According to The Blast, which first reported on the lawsuit, H.E.R. says the contract stipulates her an “exclusive employee” for an “initial period” which “ended the later of 15 months after May 19, 2011, or 12 months after the commercial release in the United States of Wilson’s first album under the contract, and up to five additional Option Periods of more than one year each.”
The lawsuit went on to say that the artist operated as if she was an exclusive employee. This continued beyond May 19, 2011, and potentially until much longer, as each Option Period is keyed to a commercial release by MBK of a record album.
She, however, claims that this is a violation of my employment rights as the contract forces her to work “beyond seven years after May 19, 2011.” It also violates California Labour Code 2855, which expressly “prohibits the enforcement beyond seven years of a contract (such as the Agreement) to render services of a special, unique, extraordinary or intellectual character.”
According to her, the statutory period has expired, and “Wilson’s seven years have run.”
The lawsuit added that by continuing to force her to work under the contract, MBK is attempting to “thwart this important and fundamental California public policy [which] should not be condoned.”
As part of her relief sought, the artist wants a “judicial declaration that the Agreement is voidable and may not be enforced against Plaintiff under California law to the extent it purports to require Plaintiff’s services after May 18, 2019”.
She is also seeking a declaration for the judge to determine that the agreement violates the California Labour Code, and she is also asking to court to make MBK pay up in “restitution and disgorgement of funds according to proof; for costs of suit incurred herein; and for such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”
In the last decade since she has been with MBK, an extremely talented H.E.R. has won several Grammys and is also an Oscar-winning voice actress.
In the meantime, neither Robinson nor MBK have responded, and it is unclear if Robinson is still H.E.R.’s manager.