Terrence Howard Claims Racist Bias and Underpayment in Lawsuit Against Former Agency

"I trusted CAA to look after me, and they looked after themselves."

Terrence Howard is taking legal action against his former agency, CAA, citing breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud and fraudulent representation. 

During a press conference held on Friday (Dec. 8), Howard accused CAA of prioritizing its interests over his and raised concerns about conflicts of interest in the industry, suggesting the lawsuit might be a "death blow" to his career and indicating potential racial bias in compensation practices.

Howard said he “trusted CAA to look after me, and they looked after themselves” and that he “never received the compensation as a producer or any of those things that are immediately given or asked for by agents of white actors."

According to PEOPLE, the actor alleges that CAA, while representing producers Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, failed to act in his best interest and secure a higher salary for his role on Fox’s “Empire.” The complaint contends that CAA served as the packaging agent for the project, waiving its standard 10 percent agency fee. 

Howard claims the agency informed him that compensation would be “built into the project’s budget and paid separately.” Unfamiliar with packaging deals, the “Hustle & Flow” star believed his agents were acting in his best interests, unaware of conflicts of interest.

The complaint reveals Howard's belief that CAA's avoidance of "double dipping" on fees as the packaging agent was commendable – the practice of agencies receiving packaging fees has been banned since the Writers Guild of America's efforts in 2020. But despite Howard's initial trust in CAA, the lawsuit asserts that, over time, he discovered the agency prioritized its financial interests and those of the production companies it represented over his own.

“Empire’s” success, marked by critical acclaim and high ratings, did not translate into a proportionate increase in Howard's salary. The complaint outlines that Howard was initially paid $125,000 per episode, as negotiated in the actor's "pilot agreement" for his role in the hit television series. The pilot agreement also established an episodic fee schedule for several seasons in the event that the series was picked up by the network.

The lawsuit details the actor renegotiating his per-episode fees by double in 2016, but claims his overall compensation remained “below the standard for a lead actor on a highly successful show.” 

When Howard sought a salary increase reflective of other lead actors in successful shows, CAA allegedly provided misleading compensation numbers, excluding other popular shows and contributing to Howard's inaccurate perception of his worth. 

The complaint asserts that Kevin Spacey's pay for "House of Cards" and John Hamm's for "Mad Men" were highlighted as the highest on the list, with a "total episodic fee for Season 4" specified as $450,000 and $350,000, respectively.


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