The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television these days, raking in billions of dollars for AMC Studios. But with all that success has come numerous lawsuits from the people making the series. Co-creator and season one showrunner Frank Darabont has been engaged in a nasty legal battle with AMC since 2013. And in 2017 comic book creator Robert Kirkman and several executive producers launched their own lawsuits against the network.
Now Darabont is adding another lawsuit to the pile after looking over Kirkman’s legal documents and realizing the contract between Kirkman and AMC was different from the one they had received during the discovery portion of their suit. At the heart of all the cases are claims AMC avoided sharing in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of profit using creative accounting practices.
“Having recently completed its audit of AMC’s accounting records, it is now clear that AMC’s wrongful conduct extends well beyond artificially deflated license fees,” Darabont’s court filing read. “In addition to withholding hundreds of millions of dollars from the creators of the hit television series The Walking Dead through improper self-dealing, which is the subject of litigation between the parties currently pending in this court, AMC has used a variety of shady accounting practices, described below, to withhold tens of millions more.”
“Plaintiffs recently learned that AMC attempted to hide evidence related to its self-dealing from Plaintiffs during discovery in the pending litigation,” the filing continued. “It was not until additional TWD producers filed new lawsuits against AMC late last year that Plaintiffs learned another TWD producer – Robert Kirkman – also has a profit definition on the Series that contains self-dealing protections.”
“AMC produced Kirkman’s agreement to Plaintiffs in discovery in the underlying action but redacted the very self-dealing provision at issue, even after agreeing with Plaintiffs that AMC would not redact anything relevant to Kirkman’s profit definition. But the truth has now come out, exposing AMC’s bad faith accounting and its bad faith litigation tactics.”
That protection against self-dealing ensured AMC paid Kirkman based on fair market licensing fees, preventing them from underselling the series to its own sub-corporations for less as they’ve been accused of doing to underpay Darabont. Hiding that provision won’t make AMC look good in court, especially since Darabont had a ‘most favored nation’ clause in his contract preventing other producers from receiving a better deal than him.
The new lawsuit adds an extra $10 million to the $280 million Darabont is already demanding from AMC, which may not seem like a big deal considering the original sum. But the evidence presented in it could be a big deciding factor in Frank Darabont getting the money he feels he’s owed after AMC fired him from his own show halfway through season 2.