Legendary singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen has launched a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that his former business manager and friend Kelley Lynch, and a tax lawyer accomplice, Richard Westin, bilked the 70-year old performer out of approximately $5 million US.
The lawsuit alleges that when Cohen withdrew from public life and entered the Mount Baldy Zen Centre in California, Lynch began taking a larger cut of Cohen's lucrative royalties and that she, together with Westin, began selling off Cohen's "intellectual properties" (such as copyrights) through a series of complicated financial deals from which they made millions at Cohen's expense.
The suit, which accuses both defendants of fraud, breach of contract and negligence, states that "this civil action is another case of a tragedy that has become all too familiar in the music industry: a business manager and professional advisers exploit an immensely talented artist's loyalty and trust through greed, self-dealing, concealment, knowing misrepresentation and reckless disregard for professional fiduciary duties."
An insider tipped off Cohen last fall that all was not well with his financial affairs. Upon investigating, Cohen discovered that his retirement savings had mysteriously dwindled from a reported $5 million US to just $150,000 US, and that Lynch had been using her signing authority on Cohen's accounts to her own advantage.
Cohen, who was planning a full-scale retirement before learning of the financial deception, is now at work on a new album with his girlfriend Anjani Thomas. "This has propelled us into incessant work", he told MacLean's magazine, adding with regard to the record, "it's one of the best albums I've heard".
And, though initially "devastated" by the shock of discovering his situation, Cohen remains philosophical, saying "I don't want anybody hurt. It's not my nature to pursue and to contend with people that way", adding that all he wants is to know where the money went.
Expect this case to remain in the headlines for a while.
Writer: Neil McDonald