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Modeling Firms Said to Face U.S. Probe

Justice Department's antitrust division is looking into allegations of inflated commissions, sources say.

August 05, 2003|From Reuters

U.S. authorities are looking into charges that agencies representing celebrities such as Lara Flynn Boyle have conspired to cheat their clients by charging inflated commissions and expenses, sources close to the case said Monday.

Lawyers with the Justice Department's antitrust division have conducted interviews in connection with antitrust complaints leveled against some top fashion model agencies in a civil class-action lawsuit, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment.

Last month, a federal judge granted class-action status to a complaint against several modeling agencies, including Elite Model Management and Ford Models Inc.

The class is expected to be made up of thousands of models. The judge appointed law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner as lead counsel.

Elite and Ford are top modeling agencies. Elite models include actress Boyle as well as Lauren Bush, niece of President Bush.

Ford represents supermodels such as Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Frederique and Rachel Hunter.

The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, alleges that the agencies fixed models' commission rates at 20%, twice the 10% allowed by state law for employment agencies. The models alleged that the defendants conspired to evade state pricing regulations by calling themselves model management companies.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs say price fixing in the industry stretches back to the 1970s. They contend that the agencies used a trade group called the International Model Management Assn. as a clearinghouse to discuss rates and other competitive terms.

Representatives of Elite and Ford were not available for comment. But they and other agencies named in the class-action case have denied wrongdoing.

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