American actor-producer Kevin Spacey and his companies has been ordered to pay nearly $31 million to MRC, the production company behind House of Cards, after finding that Spacey breached his contract by violating the company’s sexual harassment policy.
MRC filed a petition on Monday, November 22, in Los Angeles Superior Court to confirm the arbitration award, after the award was upheld in a confidential appeal. Spacey and his companies, M. Profitt Productions and Trigger Street Productions, were ordered to pay $29.5 million in damages plus $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees and $235,000 in costs.
Spacey was among the first major Hollywood figures to be accused in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in October 2017.
On November 2, 2017, CNN reported that Spacey had created a “toxic” environment by making crude comments and engaging in non-consensual touching of young male staffers, citing eight production sources. MRC said it had “no knowledge whatsoever” of Spacey’s alleged on-set misconduct prior to the CNN report and as a result, Spacey was immediately suspended pending an internal investigation. The producers ultimately terminated Spacey’s contract, and his character, Frank Underwood, was written out of the show.
At the time of Spacey’s suspension, two episodes of the sixth season were in production, and most of the season had been written. The two episodes were shelved and the production started over, ultimately delivering an eight-episode season rather than the 13 episodes that had been planned. In January 2019, MRC filed the confidential arbitration demand, seeking to recover from Spacey the costs of scrapping the season and starting over. Spacey filed a counterclaim, accusing the production company of wrongfully terminating his contract and breaching its obligations to “pay or play” under the agreement.
Attorneys on both sides took depositions from more 20 people, leading up to an eight-day confidential arbitration hearing in February 2020. The arbitrator issued a 46-page ruling in July 2020, which remains confidential, finding in MRC’s favor. According to Variety, the petition states, “With one exception, the Arbitrator found the third party witnesses to be credible, and found the allegations against Spacey to be true. The Arbitrator found that Spacey’s conduct constituted a material breach of his acting and executive producing agreements with MRC, and that his breaches excused MRC’s obligations to pay him any further compensation in connection with the show.”
According to the petition, the Arbitrator also found that breach by Spacey makes him and his companies liable for MRC’s tens of millions of extra costs.
Spacey’s original accuser, Anthony Rapp, sued him in federal court last year. That case is still pending, but several other cases against the actor have been dropped, including a criminal case in Massachusetts and a civil case in Los Angeles. In the Los Angeles case, a criminal investigation was also dropped after the accuser died.
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