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Sublime Sues Top Music Law Firm For Legal Malpractice: ‘A Pattern of Self-Dealing’

today02/01/2024 1

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The rock band Sublime has filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against the prominent music law firm King Holmes Paterno & Soriano LLP, accusing its former attorneys of a “pattern of self-dealing” that was rife with conflicts of interest.

In a complaint filed last week in Los Angeles court, Sublime claims that Howard King, Peter Paterno and Joseph M. Carlone committed a wide range of malpractice while representing the band, including brokering a merchandise deal with one of the firm’s other clients that the band alleges cost it millions of dollars.

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The lawsuit claims that King Holmes — a storied music industry law firm with a star-studded list of clients — “failed in their ethical, fiduciary, and lawyerly obligations to protect the interests of their clients.”

“Behind their façade as music industry power brokers, KHPS’ number one priority was not their client Sublime’s legal and business goals, but rather KHPS’ own financial and business interests,” the band’s new attorneys write. “Despite holding themselves out to the public as highly experienced in the business side of music, … defendants engaged in a pattern of self-dealing that was rife with potential and actual, conflicts of interest.”

When reached for comment on the allegations Thursday, Howard King told Billboard simply: “Welcome to Fantasyland. Please enjoy the ride.”

The case was filed by Sublime’s surviving members, Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh, as well as by the widow and son of Bradley Nowell, Sublime’s original lead singer who died of a drug overdose in 1996. The band’s corporate entities — Sublime Merchandising LLC and Jake And Troy Brand LLC — were also named as plaintiffs.

King Holmes Paterno & Soriano touts an eye-popping list of music industry clients, from Dr. Dre to Pharrell Williams to Blink-182 to the Tupac Shakur estate. King famously represented Williams and Robin Thicke in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case; Paterno represented Metallica in its legal battles against Napster over internet piracy.

But in its complaint, Sublime accuses King Holmes of “playing both sides” on multiple occasions. In one instance, the firm allegedly failed to disclose that it was representing both the band and former manager Dave Kaplan on the same transaction, even though the two sides had “adverse interests” in the deal. In another, the band claims that King Holmes steered the band into a merchandise deal without disclosing that the company was another one of the firm’s clients.

“Instead of negotiating the most lucrative terms for Sublime on the open market among multiple potential merchandising vendors, KHPS participated in self-dealing,” the band wrote. “KHPS misadvised SUBLIME which resulted in SUBLIME entering into an agreement with FEA, which triggered far less lucrative terms and merchandising royalties than Sublime would have otherwise gotten if they had been taken to the open market at that time.”

In another incident, Sublime claims that Paterno and Carlone failed to disclose that they had negotiated producer credits and fees for themselves on a documentary about the band, allegedly creating another undisclosed conflict of interest.

“Sublime never requested that Paterno make himself a producer, nor Carlone make himself a co producer on the documentary,” the lawsuit reads. “Paterno not only covertly insisted on and obtained this producer title and hefty sum of money, but he then shockingly billed SUBLIME thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal bills for time spent negotiating and obtaining the terms of his producer credit and fee.”

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