Harbottle settles Hollywood fees dispute

Media boutique Harbottle & Lewis has settled its case against Hollywood producer Israel Baron.

The firm had accused Baron of deliberately defrauding it in a bid to avoid paying legal fees.

It claimed that Baron had instructed the firm to act on behalf of filmmakers AIM Entertainment on a copyright claim brought against it over the film Chopin.

Baron is alleged to have neglected to clarify who would be paying the legal fees, with Harbottle claiming he deliberately used a series of similar sounding company names to confuse the firm.

Under cross-examination from Sean O’Sullivan of 4 Pump Court, Baron alleged that Harbottle had agreed to delay the payment until the film had received financing.

Baron had failed to include the allegation in any earlier witness statement throughout the case, which spanned two years and was heard in courts on both sides of Atlantic.

On Tuesday (18th December) afternoon, Baron also faced tough questioning from the judge presiding over the case, Judge Thomas Morrison.

Morrison J raised questions about Baron’s conflicting witness statements, asking why he had neglected to include allegations about the payment period in his earlier witness statements. It also emerged that Baron could not clarify whether he had read witness statements prepared on his behalf by Harbottle during the copyright case, despite signing the statements.

Legal fees will run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Although it is not known how much Baron will contribute to Harbottle’s legal fees, it is thought to be a significant sum.

Harbottle & Lewis managing partner Lawrence Abramson, who took the stand on Monday (17th December) to defend the firm’s client handling process, said the firm had no choice but to pursue Baron through the courts to recover it’s fees.

“It was difficult to know what we could have done to avoid this situation,” he said.

Tighter money laundering regulations, which came into effect this week (17th December) have been designed to force firm’s to validate the background of the instructing individuals.

Firms are not obliged to check the financial stability of companies which instruct them, but Abramson said it was standard best practice for Harbottle & Lewis.

Jonathan Bellamy of 39 Essex Street Chambers represented Baron.

Baron was unavailable for comment.