Accuses The Forum and Law Firm, Latham & Watkins, of Using
Fake Grassroots Group, Special-Interest Funding
LOS ANGELES (May 14, 2019) – The City of Inglewood filed a motion in Los Angeles Superior Court late Monday asking for the right to discovery from MSG Forum’s law firm, which it describes as the “quarterback” of a covert campaign aimed at defeating the proposed 18,500-seat Los Angeles Clippers Arena.
The motion asks Superior Court Judge Hon. Craig D. Karlan to reverse a recent referee’s recommendation blocking discovery of communications between third parties and Latham & Watkins, which has been “waging a shadowy, stop-at-nothing campaign” similar to one used by MSG to turn public sentiment against a proposed football stadium in Manhattan 15 years ago.
“MSG Forum used misinformation and smear tactics to turn New York voters against a proposed stadium in Manhattan, which then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg was backing as a permanent home for the New York Jets,” said Skip Miller, partner of Miller Barondess LLP in Los Angeles, which is representing the City of Inglewood in the Clippers Arena matter.
“Now MSG is using the same playbook to try to kill another rival arena,” said Miller.
“And it is orchestrating its covert game plan through Latham & Watkins, which has set up fake community groups and propped up opponents that are not protected by attorney-client privilege. Our request for discovery will expose MSG’s scheme for what it is – a blatant attempt to kill a potential competitor through a covert campaign of dirty tricks.”
The City’s motion unveils a number of fronts for MSG’s covert campaign. They include:
- Bankrolling a fictitious “grassroots” organization called “Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions” (“IRATE”), then using it as a front for a lawsuit challenging the Clippers arena. In 2018, IRATE and MSG filed nearly identical lawsuits with consecutive case numbers minutes apart on the same day.
· Providing masked donations to Uplift Inglewood Coalition, a “citizens group” that also has brought a dubious legal action against the project. Rather than make the donations directly, MSG has admitted using the California Community Foundation as an intermediary, presumably with the intent of concealing the true source of funding for the lawsuit.
· Recruiting Marc Little, a non-resident, to run against Mayor James T. Butts, and then infusing the Little campaign with more than $1 million – more than five times the amount usually spent on the mayoral race, and not one penny from a single supporter in Inglewood. MSG contributed more than $600,000 and six Latham attorneys kicked in another $16,300. Despite being heavily out-financed, Mayor Butts cruised to re-election with 65% of the vote. Little finished second, capturing only 18% of the vote.
· Suing and seeking millions of dollars in damages from Mayor Butts personally despite the fact that his actions were part of his duties as a public official and totally for the benefit of Inglewood residents.
· Hiring a public relations firm, Sugerman Communications Group of Los Angeles, to drum up negative stories about the Mayor. The head of that firm, Steve Sugerman, is a convicted felon who pleaded guilty in 2005 to defrauding the City of Los Angeles for submitting $120,000 in phony billings while working at another firm.
The motion filed Monday follows a May 3 ruling by Richard Chernick, Vice President and Managing Director of JAMS’ Arbitration Practice, who was hired as a referee by both sides in the dispute to determine a number of discovery issues.
Chernick denied the discovery of Latham’s communication with IRATE, Uplift, Little and other third parties, even though he acknowledged the City’s request for the information was for relevant evidence based on a legitimate need to determine “MSG’s credibility and motivations.”
The parties agreed to a 10-day period to appeal Chernick’s decisions, paving the way for the City’s filing on Monday based on evidence of an all-out legal, political and PR war against a proposed rival venue based on covert methods and ulterior motives, just like the Jets stadium.
Information provided by Skip Miller