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Supermodels get green light to sue agencies

New York, July 16 (Reuters): Thousands of models can launch a unified attack on management agencies they say conspired to cheat them by charging inflated commission fees and expenses, a US judge ruled yesterday.

US district judge Harold Baer granted class action status to a complaint against defendants including Elite Model Management and Ford Models Inc. The class is expected to be made up of thousands of models.

The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, alleges the agencies fixed models’ commission rates at 20 per cent, twice the 10 per cent 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.

Whether any specific model would be part of the class would depend on when he or she was under contract.

Elite and Ford are both top modelling agencies. Elite models include actress Lara Flynn Boyle as well as Lauren Bush, niece of President George W. Bush. Ford represents supermodels like Christie Brinkley, Jerry Hall, Frederique and Rachel Hunter.

The defendants, who have denied wrongdoing, argued against class action status on several grounds including that the plaintiffs did not allegedly suffer the same impact and that a class action would not be the best way to proceed.

The judge disagreed.

“All the class members share a common interest in proving the existence, scope and effect of the defendants’ ongoing price fixing, which allegedly led to inflated and unlawful commission rates and expenses,” Baer said.

He appointed the law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner as lead counsel.

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