Jacksons – AEG trial Week 14. AEG’S EXPERTS and the FUN, THRILL and MESS of it
UPDATED August 3, 2013
This post will cover four days of the trial and will be long. This is why I suggest you skip all of it and go immediately to the last point of it which contains the most important information. It is called “Sorting out this mess” and it is actually all you need to know about Eric Briggs testifying for AEG.
After reading it you can very well return to the beginning (if you want to) and see what it was like before updating. This is what it was like:
PURE COMEDY GOLD
Who could expect that the testimony of some AEG’s experts would be so big a thrill? And occasionally fun too?
So while the fun is going on I suggest we stick to Eric Briggs and John Meglen before discussing those medical professionals and MJ’s drug issues AEG makes so much noise about. AEG promises us that there will be still ‘many, many of them’ so there is no hurry.
I had the first real laugh since the beginning of this trial when reading the article by Alan Duke published last week and the comments following it. The impression Meglen’s testimony produced is that he and Briggs are not only burying their business with their own hands but they are also digging a grave for the whole industry by exposing some of their own and others’ ugly secrets.
Meglen, for example, says that he “knows how numbers are manipulated” in their business and Briggs reveals the unsavory truth that artists get “much less” than the huge sums generated by them for their promoters.
In short this is the information that simply can’t be missed:
AEG Live exec: ‘Celine Dion’s bigger than MJ’
By Alan Duke, CNN
July 25, 2013 — Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Los Angeles (CNN) — A top executive with AEG Live insists Celine Dion is a “bigger” artist than Michael Jackson.
John Meglin, testifying Wednesday at the wrongful death trial of AEG Live, also downplayed how many tickets Jackson could have sold if he had not died while preparing for his comeback concerts.
AEG Live lawyers are challenging an entertainment expert hired by Jackson lawyers who estimated the King of Pop would have earned $1.5 billion touring the world before his 66th birthday had he not died from an overdose of a surgical anesthetic at age 50.
Michael Jackson’s mother and three children contend the company is liable for damages because it hired, retained or supervised the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his death.
If jurors agree, they could then use estimates of Jackson’s lost earnings as a guide to determine how much AEG Live — the promoter and producer of his “This Is It” tour — must pay the Jacksons in damages.
AEG Live lawyers argue that Jackson — not its executives — chose and controlled Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor who signed a $150,000 a month contract with the company to serve as Jackson’s doctor for the tour. AEG Live executives never signed the contract, which Murray returned to them just hours before Jackson’s death.
A nurse anesthetist will testify Thursday about administering anesthesia to Jackson during a medical procedure. He will be the first of what AEG Live lead lawyer Marvin Putnam said would be a parade of “many, many” medical professionals who treated Jackson. The company will try to prove that Jackson was a secretive drug addict, which prevented promoters from knowing about the dangers he faced under Murray’s care.
Meglin, who has been a concert promoter since the 1970s, is the CEO of Concerts West, the division of AEG Live that was in charge of Michael Jackson’s tour. He was the first witness called as the company began presenting its defense in the 13th week of the trial.
Much of his testimony was focused on attacking the analysis of certified public accountant Arthur Erk, who testified last week that he was “reasonably certain” that Jackson would have performed 260 shows around the world as part of his “This Is It” tour. He would have earned $890 million over the three years of concerts in Europe, Asia, South America, North America and Australia, Erk said.
Jackson would have earned at least $1.5 billion from touring, endorsements and sponsorships had he lived to age 66, Erk said.
Erk’s analysis suggested Jackson would stage many of his shows in large stadiums, with more than 90,000 fans buying tickets to many of the concerts. But Meglin testified that his experience told him that no stadiums would seat that many people for Jackson’s kind of show. The Erk estimates were inflated by about 30%, Meglin testified.
The Rose Bowl would only seat 60,000, Meglin said. Although Billboard Magazine reported that U2 performed for 97,000 people in the Pasadena, California, venue in 2009, Meglin said he was “trusting my gut” that the numbers were inflated. “I know how those numbers can be manipulated,” he said.
Jackson lead lawyer Brian Panish noted that 98,000 people were in the Rose Bowl seats when Michael Jackson performed the halftime show for Super Bowl 27 in 1993.
Meglin also contested Erk’s suggestion that Jackson would have taken his tour to India for at least three shows.
“Nobody goes to India,” he said. He later acknowledged that Jackson performed there during his HIStory tour.
“It’s not a very big market,” Meglin said of India, which is home to about 1.25 billion people.
Meglin also disagreed with what one of his superiors, AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, wrote in an e-mail that there was enough demand in England alone to sell out more that 200 Jackson shows. “He believed that,” Meglin testified. “I don’t believe that.”
Fans bought all 750,000 tickets put on sale for 31 shows in March 2009 in just two hours, Phillips said. Enough buyers were already registered to sell out another 100 shows, Phillips wrote.
Meglin also disagreed with Phillips’ opinion that Michael Jackson was the biggest entertainment artist ever.
“I do myself personally believe that that is not true,” Meglin testified Wednesday. “In my opinion Celine Dion is right up there with Michael Jackson and, to me, she is bigger.”
The comments from various people were fantastic:
- AEG is smoking something.
- This Meglin clown is hurting their case with his used car salesman testimony.
Meglin: “The Rose Bowl would only seat 60,000.”
Lawyer: “But Billboard reported that U2 performed there for 97,000.”
Meglin: “My gut tells me those numbers can be manipulated.”
Lawyer: “98,000 were there the last time Mr. Jackson performed at the Rose Bowl.”
Lawyer: “Mr. Jackson would have taken his tour to India for at least three shows.”
Meglin: “Why? It’s not a very big market.”
Lawyer: “India is home to about 1.25 billion people.”
Meglin: “Nobody goes to India.”
Lawyer: “But didn’t Michael perform there during his last tour?”
Meglin: “Oh yeah.”
Lawyer: “Your boss said the demand in England could sell out 200 shows.”
Meglin: “He believed that. I don’t believe that.”
Lawyer: “But all 750,000 tickets for the first 31 sold out in two hours, and buyers were already registered to sell out another 100 shows.”
Lawyer: “Mr. Jackson was one of the biggest artists ever worldwide, right?”
Meglin: “Eh, even some Canadian artists are bigger. Celine Dion. Justin Bieber. That group that sang ‘Afternoon Delight’.”
Lawyer: “Starland Vocal Band wasn’t from Canada.”
Who at AEG decided to put this trainwreck on the stand? Pure comedy gold.
Pure comedy gold indeed. And since the comedy continues this week too I suggest we follow it and offer you a summary of the news for almost the whole of week 14 of the trial.
MONDAY JULY 29, 2013. DAY 58
After a short video deposition last Friday on Monday Briggs started his testimony live. You remember that he was hired by AEG as their main expert to refute Arthur Erk’s estimates of MJ’s potential earnings.
And judging by what we have already heard of Briggs’ testimony it should be a no less hit than Meglen’s ridiculous performance.
First of all Briggs revealed the shocking truth that AEG was to pay Michael Jackson only $22 million out of the several hundred millions he was to make for these AEG exploiters by performing 50 shows.
Well, previously AEG said something totally different:
May 31, 2009
Jackson stands to earn $50 million for the O2 shows, “This Is It” — $1 million per performance, not including revenue from merchandise sales and broadcast rights. Jackson is considering options including pay-per-view and a feature film. But the real money would kick in after his final curtain call in London.
AEG has proposed a three-year tour starting in Europe, then traveling to Asia and finally returning to the United States. Although Jackson has committed only to the O2 engagement thus far, Phillips estimates ticket sales for the global concerts might exceed $450 million. Such a rebound could wipe out Jackson’s debt.
AEG never told Michael the real figure of $22 mln. for the London shows. Moreover he probably even didn’t know of $50 mln mentioned in the above article – the figures AEG bosses were operating when talking to him were much higher. Paul Gongaware advised his colleagues to talk to Michael in gross figures and that would be almost half a billion if I remember it right.
The reality is different of course. The lion share of that half a billion was to go into AEG’s pocket and Michael was to receive the sums AEG were too ashamed to even say outloud. I think their wildest projection was something like $132 mln though I am not sure. Actually with AEG you can never be sure of anything. You can’t know your contract, you can’t have your documents, you can’t know the real numbers – actually you can’t know anything. This is AEG’s very special knowhow.
The ABC tweets on Monday July 29, 2013 DAY 58 say:
- Hello from the courthouse in downtown LA. Week 14 of Jackson family vs AEG trial is underway. There was only morning session today.
- AEG’s retained expert, Eric Briggs, was back on the stand. Sabrina Strong, AEG’s attorney, resumed direct examination.
- Strong asked about Briggs opinion on the completion of the 50 shows agreed by Michael Jackson at the time of his death.
- The expert said it was speculative to assume MJ would complete all 50 shows in London.
- Slide: Erk’s TII Tour: Speculative
- A slide shown to the jury relates to a world tour that would be speculative, Briggs said.
- 1- No agreement beyond 50 shows
- 2- MJ’s drug use
- 3- MJ’s history if cancellations
- Slide: 4- World tour depends on completion of 50 shows
- a- Performance Risk
- b- Execution Risk
- However, Briggs said numbers 1 and 2 also relates to the 50 shows in London.
- Briggs said MJ’s history and manner of drug use and lasting affects are supporting basis for opinion that 50 shows were speculative.
- MJ had a significant history of canceling projects, even if they were reasonably sure to happen, Briggs said.
- Briggs said he evaluated Mr. Erk’s numbers regarding the 260 shows.
- Jacksons atty Brian Panish asked for sidebar. It lasted 23 minutes.
- Regarding the 260 shows Erk calculated, Briggs said the expert’s projection was unprecedented for gross ticket sales and revenue perspective
- Briggs said the highest grossing tour ever is U2 360 Show, which generated $736 million in ticket sales and merchandise.
- Tour Gross Revenues: Tickets/Merchandise
- 1- U2: $736 million
- 2- Rolling Stones: $558 million
- 3- AC/DC: $441 million
- 4- Madonna: $408 million
- Briggs said what’s actually received by the artist is much smaller that the gross number and it is based on the expenses of the tour.
- If the production is expensive, Briggs said the net to AC/DC members could be higher than the net to U2 members, even though U2 grossed more
- MJ’s Highest Grossing Tours:
- BAD generated $126 million for 120 shows
- HISTORY generated $165 million for 82 dates in 1996-97
- Briggs said the Dangerous tour was not included because it was not reflected in the list of highest grossing tours of all times.
- Dangerous tour was cut short due because MJ entered rehab, Briggs explained.
- AEG’s Predicted Future Tours:
- Prod 1: $94 million
- Prod 2: $107 million
- Strong asked Briggs how AEG’s 2009 Budget compare. Erk projected $1.65 billion for 260 shows tour, he answered.
- Clearly this is in excess of anything we’ve ever seen in the history around the world, Briggs opined.
- Briggs said Mr. Erk was projecting $900 million to be paid to MJ as net for tickets, endorsements and merchandising.
- Based on the record, this amount was nowhere near what MJ had brought home in the past, Briggs testified.
- Briggs said Paul Gongaware testified MJ’s Dangerous tour lost money, it was not profitable. He also testified HIStory tour was a break even.
- Net is the value of tickets and merchandising minus all the costs to put on the show, Briggs explained.
- Regarding the HIStory tour, Briggs said, based on Gongaware’s testimony, there must have been costs that made the tour break even.
- What’s implied is that MJ did not generate any significant net from this tour, Briggs said.
- Briggs testified that AEG’s budget shows that MJ, if he completed all 50 show shows, would’ve taken home between $22 and $31 million.
- This amount included tickets and merchandising, but not endorsement, Briggs said.
- Briggs: As Jun 2009, no endorsement was in place, no sponsorhip was in place. AEG Live had taken steps to secure them but none were in place
- Briggs said Erk projected MJ would net $890 million from a 260 world tour shows between tickets, merchandising, endorsements and sponsorship
- I don’t know how anyone can be reasonably certain this would occur, Briggs said.
- The highest grossing tour of all times was U2’s 360, Briggs said, which was $736 million. Erk’s projection for MJ to net was way above that.
- It’s completely out of line of with history, with MJ’s own history and history of all other tours, Briggs opined.
- If there’s no tour, there’s no merchandise, the expert said.
- Briggs’ experience with endorsement relates to working with the estate of major artists, like Elvis and Frank Sinatra.
- They were approached many times by large companied to put their names on products to sell.
- Briggs explained the industry uses a “Q” score data, which draws the likability of a celebrity or persona.
- Briggs said there are two major types of factors that companies take into consideration to select artist to endorse:
- 1- history in securing endorsement, relationship with previous sponsors
- 2- how predictable the artist is, how stable his/her actions are
- Companies are looking for safe bets, Briggs said. “They don’t want to take big risks with their products.”
- Briggs explained the companies are concerned about what general public thinks of the artist/celebrity.
- Briggs: The tour gross relates to people being interests in seeing someone perform. MJ was a great performer.
- But there’s a difference between excellence as performance of stage and whether the company wants to align itself with performer, Briggs said
- Briggs said the “Q” score data associated with MJ analyzed his albums’ sales, actions taken by AEG, and MJ’s stability and predictability.
- Briggs explained data companies call people and ask how much they like a certain artist, their “Q” score.
- They then report the results back to the brand company to decide how safe a bet an artist is.
- Briggs received two sets of data: MJ likability, MJ comparative group (Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Justin Timberlake)
- Judge wanted to know what kind of questions the company asks people in the survey.
- Briggs said the question is about the person’s impression of the artist, with normally 3-5 choices for answer.
- The questions are not as much if a person would buy a product, but their impression of the artist, Briggs explained.
- Q score survey: Question: What’s your general impression of individual/celebrity?
- Answers: One of my Favorites, Very Good, Good, Fair/Poor
- Briggs said it’s useful to look at comparison with other artists, how they stack up against others that are similar to the artist in question.
Briggs said that Michael Jackson’s “likability” as a performer was doubtful for product endorsement deals. This is the first time I heard of product endorsement and had to look it up. The dictionary said:
Product Endorsement Definition:
A written or public statement by a celebrity, business or professional group extolling the virtues of a product and recommending the use of the product to the public. A product endorsement from an authoritative figure is a key element in business advertising and marketing campaigns.
The above made it clear that the ultimate goal of those who started Michael’s persecution in 1993 and never stopped until his dying day was his complete financial ruin.
They wanted to fully destroy his image so that his name lost all its ‘likability’ and selling capacity and no one wanted to be associated with him or his music.
This is why after 1993 selling records for Michael turned into an uphill battle irrespective of the finest quality of his albums, and the fact that he still managed to be selling millions was actually a miracle.
This is how his music proved its absolute value.
And this is why the number of his records after the 1993 scandal should never be compared with the Thriller numbers – no, it should be compared with the zero number of albums which other artists would have sold had they been in the same circumstances.
All circumstances were fighting against Michael and it was only due to his unrivalled genius that he still managed to overcome the negative trend and still sell millions. So with the necessary adjustments made for the horrendous war conditions Michael was working in, each million of those follow-up albums should be regarded at least as ten million sold in peace time.
It was due to the absolute excellence of his music and performance that despite all those “likability” issues the London shows instantaneously sold out and left half a million people waiting in line. However the unprecedented demand for the tickets and the very fact that AEG pursued Michael Jackson for two years before they “nailed him down” are something which Briggs is totally ingoring now.
Therefore let me remind everyone how desperate Randy Phillips and John Meglen of AEG were to work with the man who is now being belittled by their expert Eric Briggs. At that time Randy Phillips never minded any likability and was “resourceful and relentless” in his determination to get Michael:
TW: Take us back to how you talked MJ out of retirement. How were you able to convince him?
Randy Phillips: I talked to him/pitched him about a year and a half earlier. He turned me down, but I’m resourceful and relentless. I (eventually) talked him into it. One year and a half later, Tom Barrack from Colony Investments, who saved Neverland Ranch, helped him restructure his finances. He approached me and said MJ wanted to talk to me personally.
John Meglen said it was very, very difficult to “weed through” a lot of others offering their services to Michael (their competitor Live Nation was one of them):
John Meglen: “Early on, there were a lot of different representatives around Michael, so weeding through that was always a very, very difficult thing,” Meglen says. “I think the important point was that, what we laid out to Michael was the breadth of the company, of AEG. I think from the very get go, we kind of planted into Michael that we were a great match for him.”
At that time AEG had a “standing offer” for MJ after chasing him for 2 years:
In late November, Randy Phillips, President and CEO of AEG Live, said that the company — which books and runs the O2 — has been chasing Jackson for two years looking for a multi-night engagement. Though no deal was signed at the time, Phillips said AEG has had a “standing offer” to Jackson since 2006 to re-create his landmark Thriller album in its entirety at the O2 but had struggled to nail down a firm deal with the elusive singer.
And now their expert Briggs is trying his hardest to downplay Michael’s appeal to the public:
- Briggs said there’s data for “Q” score from 1990 to 2006, with some gaps. There’s no “Q” score data between 2006 and 2009.
- Strong showed a chart of MJ’s “Likability,” which declined after 1993. The chart shows a Negative-Positive Impression.
- Briggs said that in 2006, there was 1 (one) person with positive impression for every 7.4 people with negative impression of MJ.
- Briggs said “in 1993, MJ’s likability was pretty well in line with other artists”. From that point, it declined substantially.
- In 2006, Briggs said the chart shows that there were 7.4 negative impressions for 1 positive regarding Michael Jackson.
- Briggs explained that in 1993 there was a start of some significantly negative headlines associated with MJ, his drug abuse and other issues
- There’s no data available from 2006 to 2009. Briggs said he requested the data but was unable to get it.
- He said if someone’s likability is so negative, they take those people off the list, since no company would want to align itself with them.
- Judge asked Briggs if MJ could’ve been compared to an individual artist, such as Justin Timberlake, as opposed to a group of similar artists
- He said the norm is to compare with the average of the group with the artist in question.
- Briggs said Mr. Erk specified album unit sales for five of MJ’s albums. “It also showed a significant decline,” Briggs said.
- MJ’s albums sale:
- 1982 — Thriller — 65 million
- 1987 — Bad — 45 million
- 1991 — Dangerous — 32 million
- 1995 — HIStory — 20 million
- 2001 — Invincible — 13 million
- Briggs testified MJ had a significant issue in the media related to negative headlines in a broad of topics.
- That would impact a company’s decision on endorsements/sponsorship. Companies are focused on selling, Briggs said.
- The expert explained there was a significant audience that wanted to see MJ perform.
- He said AEG took steps to secure endorsements and sponsorships but was unable to do so.
- I don’t know how he can predict that all of the sudden the light switch would be turned on Briggs said about Erk’s endorsement projection
- The expert said there were no endorsement or sponsorship deals at the time of MJ’s death.
- Strong asked why Las Vegas deal was speculative. Briggs said there was nothing in the works, no budget, agreement or financing.
- Beyond that, there’s no real precedent for living, touring artist, who has a tribute show.
- Briggs testified there aren’t any meaningful, premium-type of show, associated with a living performing artist.
Note: For performing artist this may be more or less correct, but as to non-performing stars tribute shows may be a very big thing. ABBA no longer perform but I hear that their Mamma Mia musical has been the world’s most successful musical ever.
So all Michael had to do was announce to the world that he would never perform after the London tour for the tribute hologram shows to start selling like hot cakes.
However Briggs still goes on talking about MJ as if he were some third-rate artist struggling for attention on a ‘competitive Las Vegas market’ and makes himself sound totally ridiculous by saying it. And I thought that Briggs was old enough to know that finding an audience for Michael was never an issue.
- Briggs: “In my business, just expressing interest it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” the expert opined.
- He said they were ideas and he sees ideas thrown around all the time.
- Briggs: Las Vegas is a very competitive market. Every hotel wants a show that appeals to a broad audience.
- It’s hard to make big bets if there are high questions about likability and predictability.
- Entertainment is about finding an audience, Briggs said. “No one can predict if it will be successful until you sell the tickets.”
- Briggs said his understanding is that MJ’s Estate did not agree to AEG’s proposed Las Vegas tour.
- Briggs said in Erk’s projection, MJ would go into movies, but he did not provide figures in this regard.
- Briggs’ “Film Production Process”: – Ideas – Development/Packaging – Financing – Pre-production planning – Production – Post production – Advertising – Distribution – Theatrical release – Profits?
- Briggs said there were efforts taking place at one point for MJ to make movies. He considers it to be in the development phase.
- It absolutely does not mean it would be getting to the end of the process, Briggs opined.
- Briggs said the decision to make films is multimillion dollar one. The commitment is very serious, you can’t make movie with a million
- A movie can be hundreds of millions of dollars, Briggs said. And a lot needs to be in place, like audience, distributors, etc.
- He said just advertising a movie in the US can be 50+ million dollars.
- Briggs said the last feature film MJ was associated with “Miss Cast Away,” released in 2004-05 and it went straight to video, not in theaters
- Briggs said that even at the distribution phase, it doesn’t mean film will be profitable/successful. “It’s all a risk up until this point.”
- Only after 3-6 weeks in the theater it’s possible to figure out if the movie is profitable or not, Briggs said.
- Briggs named some big films that have been disappointments: John Carter, Battleship, Jack the Giant Killer.
- Briggs: These movies had big actors, big dollars, big movie studios and big decision process that can’t always be right.
- Each studio releases 15-20 films/year, Briggs said, and only about half of them are known to the public.
- Just because you make something it doesn’t mean it will go on to critical success, Briggs said.
Briggs: Mr. Erk simply stated he believed Michael would do movies.
- Briggs said there were periods of times where MJ would have great connections in the movie industry, then fire them only to hire them back.
- Great connections do not equate that things will get done, let alone be successful, Briggs testified.
- Briggs: “Not everything that’s attempted is a resounding success.”
- Regarding MJ’s personal history with respect to feature films, Briggs was emphatic: “I do not believe MJ was successful,” the expert said.
- Even Mr. Erk said he was not successful in movies, Briggs said.
- Briggs: I don’t know how anyone can project, with reasonable certainty, that MJ would be successful at making movies.
- Court adjourned until tomorrow 1:30 pm PT with Briggs back on the stand for another half day session.
- Rebbie Jackson was to testify on Wednesday but is sick. Other witnesses expected this week: Debbie Rowe and Randy Jackson via video depo.
- We hope to see you all tomorrow for full coverage of the trial. Watch @ABC7Courts for the latest and http://www.abc7.com
TUESDAY JULY 30, 2013. DAY 59
The next day of Briggs’ testimony gave us the impression that the Estate was helping the AEG case.
This was so enormous a surprise that all the rest of it faded in connection with this news.
I think it was Katherine Jackson who said at this trial that it is actually the Estate that is covering the plaintiffs’ expenses in their case against AEG, so these two factors terribly clashed until things clarified a little bit the next day.
And the next day it turned out that Briggs had done two separate jobs for AEG and the Estate with a 3 year difference between them and was not working simultaneously for both companies, but even despite that the Estate did not give him a permission to testify in the case.
However on Tuesday Briggs assured everyone that Jeryll Cohen, a lawyer for the Estate, “okayed him to testify” and “acknowledged his work on the case”, which sounded almost like an encouragement for Briggs to speak against Katherine Jackson.
On Tuesday Briggs also said that Ms. Cohen had waived any potential conflict between the Estate and Briggs.
I may be wrong in my interpretation but to me this “waiving a potential conflict” sounded like negating a conflict of interest between the parties which can also be understood as the Estate acknowledging that they are on AEG’s side and there is no conflict whatsoever between them.
This is how the whole thing looked on Tuesday July 30. The next day things changed, but Alan Duke already wrote an article about it which contained some very interesting details not available from the ABC tweets.
From it we learn that Briggs said he sought and gained permission from the Estate to waive any potential conflict of interest and that Ms. Cohen was well aware of “everything that was going on”:
Michael Jackson’s estate consultant helps AEG Live’s defense
By Alan Duke
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013
Los Angeles (CNN) — A lawyer for Michael Jackson’s estate gave an entertainment industry consultant permission to help AEG Live in its defense of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the pop singer’s mother, the expert testified.
The revelation was a surprise to Katherine Jackson, who was sitting in court Tuesday listening to the expert testify that he believed her son would not have earned any money even if he had not died of a propofol overdose.
If jurors decide AEG Live is liable in Jackson’s death, testimony by Eric Briggs — whose company billed the concert promoter $700,000 to prepare his opinion — could be used to determine how much in damages the company would have to pay to Michael Jackson’s mother and three children.
Briggs, however, previously consulted for the Jackson estate in determining a value of it’s biggest asset — the Sony-ATV music catalog that includes the Beatles songs. He testified that before he signed a contract to serve as an expert in AEG Live’s defense he sought and gained permission from the Jackson estate lawyer Jeryll Cohen to waive any potential conflict of interest.
“She (Cohen) was well aware of everything that was going on,” Briggs testified.
A spokesman for the Michael Jackson estate was unaware of the circumstances or reasons why the estate would approve the waiver that could be counter to the interests of its beneficiaries — Jackson’s mother and three children.
An entertainment industry analyst hired by Jackson lawyers testified he was “reasonably certain” Jackson would have earned $1.5 billion from touring before retiring if he had not died while preparing for his comeback concerts in 2009.
Briggs testified that it was “speculative” that Jackson would have even completed the 50 “This Is It” concerts that AEG Live had already sold out in London.
Briggs said that based on what he’d learned from testimony in the case, he believed that Jackson would have died before the first show — even if he had not suffered the fatal overdose of a surgical anesthetic on June 25, 2009. He cited the testimony of a doctor who said that Jackson would have been dead within a week if he remained under the care of Dr. Conrad Murray.
The Jackson lawsuit contends AEG Live is liable in Jackson’s death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the pop icon’s death.
The Erk opinion included $300 million that he estimated Jackson would have earned from endorsements and sponsorships. But Briggs testified that “significantly negative headlines, drug abuse and other issues” had ruined Jackson’s ability to earn endorsement and sponsorship money.
“Q score” data for Jackson, which measures his “likability,” became dramatically negative by 2006 — a year after he was acquitted in a child molestation trial, he testified. More than seven people said they disliked Jackson for every one who said they liked him, he said. Companies would be “very anxious” about putting someone with such a negative “likability” next to their products, he said.
One issue hurting Jackson’s endorsement deal potential was his financial debt, estimated to be $400 million at the time of his death, Briggs said.
But Jackson lawyer Brian Panish asked Briggs if he considered that Jackson‘s assets — most notably the Sony-ATV catalogue — were greater than his debts.
Briggs stuttered on the witness stand, saying he was reluctant to discuss Jackson’s assets because of a client confidentiality issue.
He eventually acknowledged that he had worked for the Jackson estate as a consultant analyzing the value of the music catalog. He signed a confidentiality agreement with the estate, which he said prevented him from discussing it.
His company did, however, clear his participation in the wrongful death case with a Jackson estate lawyer before he agreed to be an expert for AEG Live, he said.
Briggs also said AEG Live lawyers were aware of the potential conflict before hiring him and had no problem with it.
Wednesday is the 60th day of testimony in the trial, which began 14 weeks ago in a Los Angeles County court. The judge told jurors she expects testimony to conclude in mid-September.
Let us go over the way all these revelations were made:
- Panish discussed with Briggs Michael’s debt and Briggs said he considered the debt to be higher than Michael’s assets. He said he had evaluated the catalog 5-10 times for several companies and therefore produced on the court the impression of a knowledgeable source.
- When Michael’s ATV catalogue was raised Ms. Strong suddenly began making so many objections that the judge “got mad” at her according to the ABC tweets, and called a sidebar.
- Then Panish asked for whom Briggs evaluated the catalogue and Briggs said he was uncomfortable to name his clients. The judge ordered him to answer and he said he evaluated the catalogue for the following companies:
- One law firm that hired him in 2009 after MJ died (the Estate?). Prior to that Briggs also did it for others:
- Sony ATV Music Publishing (the owner of the catalog)
- Fortress (the company which held the foreclosure note on Neverland and sold it to Tom Barrack and Colony Capital). Briggs gives the name of the company as Fortress Capital, though the correct name is Fortress Investment Group. By this slip of the tongue he could unwittingly betray that he was doing evaluation for Colony Capital as well. And Colony Capital was the company that induced Michael to work with AEG saying that his finances were so bad that “it was his only choice”.
- Goldman Sachs (which had a plan to refinance MJ’s debts before Fortress came into the picture. As far as I remember Fortress was brought in by Randy Jackson).
- Then Briggs said that AEG lawyers didn’t regard his work for those companies and AEG as a conflict of interest.
- As to the Estate Briggs said that a certain call took place (he didn’t remember who called) and he spoke with Jeryll Cohen, the Estate’s lawyer who okayed him to testify as a witness in this case.
Brian Panish reacted to all that with a sudden revelation on his part. He said that the IRS is investigating the people “who hired Briggs” and “for whom he undervalued Sony ATV catalogue” (evidently meaning the Estate who hired him in 2009).
In short all of it turned into a really big mess and an equally big sensation. In the meantime I looked up what IRS means:
- IRS: Internal Revenue Service. The federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing the Treasury Department’s revenue laws, through the assessment and collection of taxes.
So the government tax collection body is checking up on the Estate to see whether the ATV catalog was properly evaluated? And whether the Estate paid all the taxes due to them? So they think that they catalog costs much more?
What an unexpected turn to the events …The ABC tweets give the details of the sensational day:
Tuesday July 30 DAY 59
- Hello from the courthouse in downtown LA. Day 59 of Jackson family vs AEG trial has just wrapped up. This is Week 14
- Eric Briggs was back on the stand. Sabrina Strong finished direct examination.
- Katherine Jackson was present in court, wearing a black and white jacket with floral details.
- Before testimony resumed, AEG’s Kathryn Cahan said last week, when Dr. Saunders’ video deposition was played, they didn’t read a correction
- She said when Dr. Saunders said the only two drugs he know of were Demerol and morphine — it should be buprenorphine instead of Morphine.
- Strong continued her questioning. Briggs said he was tasked to analyze Erk’s projection related to MJ’s potential work-related income.
- Briggs Conclusions:
- 1- It is speculative as to whether these projects would be completed;
- 2- The projection and numbers are speculative
- Strong finished her questions. Jacksons’ attorney Brian Panish did cross examination.
- Briggs said he’s engaged in this matter as AEG and O’Melveny & Myers expert witness.
- I’m offering my independent opinion in his matter, Briggs said. As an individual, he’s not being paid.
- Panish asked if his company was being paid, and the expert said FTI consulting is billing fees in this matter.
- Panish: You are being paid by this side here, sir?
- Briggs: I don’t agree with your characterization
- Panish: You never worked for us?
- Briggs: I’m not performing work in this matter for Mrs. Jackson and Panish law firm
- I’m engaged in this matter as an expert witness, Briggs responded. “My firm has been hired by AEG and O’Melveny & Myers.”
- Panish: So you are not independent?
- Briggs: I’m not sure I understand where you’re going with this.
- Briggs said he has had between 4 and 6 meeting with AEG’s attorneys over the last two weeks.
- The expert said he worked 40-50 hours approximately since July 18. He said he went to the attorneys’ office 5 days last week, 2 this week
- Briggs said another member of his firm (Matthew) is helping him in the case.
- Matthew has been with the company for about a year and Panish says he’s the one who has been doing a lot of the work.
- Briggs said Panish’s characterization that Matthew worked the most in this case is concerning.
- Panish: How much, sir, have you charged O’Melveny & Myers?
- Briggs said the total bill is in the order of $600,000 to $700,000.
- Panish: And you say you’re independent, correct, sir?
- Briggs: I’m offering my independent opinion in this matter
Note: What Brian Panish probably means by his questions is that with so big sums paid to Briggs and his company for a mere “opinion” in the case it is actually difficult for the witness to remain unbiased. In polite terms it would be called influencing the opinion in favor of AEG, and in impolite terms it could be sheer bribery on their part.
The sum of $700,000 begin to looks all the more suspicious to us when we learn that Briggs does not have any documents to itemize the jobs for which this sum was charged though the judge ordered he should submit them (evidently due to the enormity of the sum).
And all this conversation makes us wonder even more when Panish says that the resulting file from Briggs contains very little information to present to court. No summaries of depositions or testimonies, no nothing. Briggs practically did nothing else but simply brush away Arthur Erk’s estimation as “speculation” – simple and easy as that.
- Briggs said his understanding is that there’s another person hired by AEG to testify regarding damages in this case.
- Panish said the expert testified in his deposition he had worked 130 hours in this case.
- Since his deposition, Briggs said he has worked approximately 200 additional hours, 350 hours total.
- Panish showed the witness the bill sent by Briggs’ company. It does not detail the work done, only the amount of hours spent.
- Briggs: Yes, I tell my assistant how much I worked on a case
- Bill shows 17.3 hours worked, $13,840 charge.
- Panish: Do you keep track of the hours you work?
- Briggs said he doesn’t know specifically what he did on those hours, but did research in connection with the case, preparing for deposition.
- Panish held a three ring binder with about 2 inches of documents and asked Briggs if those were all the documents he generated for $650K.
- Briggs said that binder does not contain everything that he generated.
- Panish: Everything contained in this little file is what you generated in this case, correct?
- Briggs: By your definition, yes
- Panish said the material Briggs generated is about an inch worth of documents.
- Briggs said that if Panish is defining in printed paper what he generated, then yes. But if he counted deposition and testimony, then no.
- Briggs: I did not put together an exhaustive list.
- Panish: Did you ever make a list of all the depositions you reviewed in this case?
- Briggs said he read thousands of pages of depositions, probably 10K.
- Panish asked if Briggs made summaries of the depositions. He said no.
- I cannot give you an exhaustive list of all the depositions I reviewed in this case, Briggs said. He named about 15/16 people.
- Briggs said he reviewed the opening statements by both parties, summary judgment and opposition, and the judge’s ruling.
- Briggs said he has only testified once in UK related to a tax case. He has never testified before in a court in the US.
- The expert didn’t summarize the trial testimony he read either. He named about 7 people from whom he read testimony.
- Panish: Did you review Billboard Magazine regarding this case?
- Briggs: Yes
- Panish: You never promoted a concert, have you?
- Briggs: I’m not a concert promoter
- Briggs also said he has never produced concerts. People in the music industry are his clients, Briggs said.
Panish: And the highest selling album in the history of the world is “Thriller,” correct, sir?
- Briggs: I believe that’s correct. The chart stated it sold 65 million.
- Panish: You understand the defendants say they are not responsible for anything in this case, right?
- Briggs: I’m not entirely sure what the defendants said they are responsible for
- He said he was asked to opine on plaintiff’s damage analysis.
- I don’t believe the defendants are admitting they owe anything Briggs said.
- Panish: MJ would earn no money in the future had he not died?
- Briggs: My opinion is that it is speculative to project that he (MJ) would earn money related to work.
- Panish: Your opinion, had MJ not died, he would have earned no money, correct?
- Briggs: That’s not my opinion
- Panish: How much would he have made working in concerts?
- Briggs: My opinion is that it is speculative to project earnings for future work
- Panish: Could he have made money working?
- Briggs: Sure, anything is possible
- Briggs: My opinion related to Mr. Erk’s analysis, which has earning capacity in it.
- Briggs said his understanding is that future earning capacity is what someone is expected to receive for future work.
- Panish asked if Briggs has ever testified regarding loss of income in wrongful death or personal injury cases. The expert said no.
- I’ve not done projection of loss of earning capacity, Briggs said.
- Briggs said he’s worked an average of 50 weeks per year over the past 15 years. Panish calculated it to be about 750 weeks of work.
- Panish: So you worked on 1300 projects in 750 weeks? [NOTE: approx. 1 project per 3 work days]
- Briggs: Approximately.
Panish showed a document Briggs wrote that was basis for opinion on not getting endorsement is debt.
- Briggs notes: Challenges with major advertisers given history (drug usage, child abuse, litigation, debt); also negative publicity
- Briggs: MJ history of significant debt figured in my opinion that MJ would encounter challenges in securing endorsements.
- Panish asked if Briggs considered MJ’s Sony ATV catalogue, which is one of his assets, to offset the debt.
- Panish: “How do you know he was in debt?”
- Briggs: There were extensive testimony in this case about MJ’s debt
- Panish asked if Briggs knows that MJ had assets with value. Briggs said yes.
- Panish asked if Briggs knows that MJ’s asset, especially one, exceeded the amount of his debt.
- Briggs said he’s concerned about confidentiality agreement in answering this question.
- Panish: You know, through your own knowledge, that MJ’s assets far exceeded his debts when you wrote that on the sheet, don’t you sir
- Judge gets mad with Strong for not stopping the objections, tells her to abide by her rulings. Strong continued, judge called a sidebar.
- Briggs said he does not know that MJ had assets worth more than 300 or 400 or 500 million when he wrote his opinion .
- Panish: Did you value that asset (Sony’s catalogue)?
- Briggs: Yes
- Briggs said he had knowledge of some of MJ’s asset.
- Panish: It’s well in excess of $500 million, isn’t it, sir?
- Briggs: I’m sorry I’m having a trouble here, but I don’t want to disclose any confidential information.
- Panish asked if the gross value Briggs put for the Sony catalogue is well in excess of the value of MJ’s debt.
- I don’t remember the number, Briggs said. “I did not believe that’s the case.”
- Briggs: I believe the testimony the debt associated with Sony ATV catalogue was $400 million.
- Panish wants to know if the gross value of the catalogue was in excess of the debt. Briggs said no.
- Briggs said he performed the evaluation of Sony’s catalogue many times, and his response was related to June 2009.
- Briggs said he was working with someone unrelated to this case regarding the value of the Sony catalogue.
- Briggs asked the judge to instruct him on what he should answer, since Panish wants to know who he was working with regarding the catalogue.
- P: Have you been clear about your company to testify?
- B: Absolutely
- Panish: Do you have a conflict of interest in this case?
- Briggs: No
- Briggs said he’s not comfortable disclosing the names of the companies that hired him before.
- Judge Yvette Palazuelos ordered him to answer.
- Briggs: In one particular case, a law firm hired us. It was in late 2009, after Michael Jackson had died.
- Panish asked if before MJ died if any law firm hired his company to assess MJ’s assets. Briggs said he doesn’t recall.
- Regarding this asset, the Sony ATV catalogue, Briggs said he worked on evaluating it between 5-10 times.
- Briggs said he provided his opinion in those engagements, 5 to 10 times, before MJ died, to 3 or 4 third parties.
- Panish: Was one of them Sony?
- Briggs: Yes.
- Sony ATV Music Publishing was one of the companies, not Sony music, Briggs said.
- Fortress Capital — Briggs said it was another company. He recalls law firm and there may have been financial companies.
- Panish: Goldman Sachs?
- Briggs: It’s possible, I work on hundreds of projects a year.
- Panish: Goldman Sachs hired you regarding MJ, right sir?
- Briggs: I don’t recall specifically.
- Briggs said he watched the testimony of Meglen in the overflow room. He was accompanied by 3 AEG attorneys.
- Panish asked if Briggs worked with MJ before being retained in this case. He said yes and that he discussed it with AEG.
- Briggs testified AEG didn’t see the work done in previous engagements as conflict of interest.
- Briggs said that what was more important to him is what FTI’s general counsel thought and they determined there was no conflict of interest.
- Briggs said he had engagement agreements with a number of entities related to MJ.
- I went one step further and told them (AEG) I would not be discussing anything regarding my other work, Briggs said.
- Panish: Who did you call, have sign waiver in writing about a potential conflict of interest?
- Briggs said there wasn’t anything in writing.
- My recollection was the attorneys for the Estate of Michael Jackson, Briggs testified. He said a call took place, doesn’t know who called.
- Briggs was retained on February 8, 2013. He spoke with Jeryll Cohen from MJ Estate and she okay’d him to testify as witness in this case.
- She was well aware what was going on and approved it. Briggs said he told her he had no interest in sharing the work done for the Estate.
- Briggs said he spoke with Cohen again about two months ago, and she acknowledged his work on this case.
- Briggs receives a salary and bonus based on performance of the division.
- FTI is a public traded company. Briggs said he thinks the company was approaching $2 billion in revenues last year.
- Briggs testified he saw testimony that MJ had one life week to live after June 25, 2009, the day of the artist’s death.
- Panish said Dr. Shimelman testified MJ’s life expectancy was one week based on Dr. Murray’s treatment of him.
- Briggs: I believe his statement was MJ’s life expectancy was one week, and he was taking into effect a lot of things: Dr. Murray, drug use
- Panish: Are you aware that IRS is investigating the people who hired you and undervalued Sony ATV catalogue?
- Objection: Sustained.
- Panish: Dr. Murray was a big risk to MJ’s health, wasn’t he?
- Dr. Earley said MJ was essentially playing Russian roulette in the way he was using drugs, Briggs said.
NOTE: Panish is talking to Briggs about Murray being a risk for Michael. The risk cannot be even disputed as actually Michael died in his hands, Murray was found guilty of manslaughter and put in jail for his criminal negligence.
However Briggs twists the question and answers that it was Michael who risked his life by using this drug. This answer makes all the difference in the world as it deliberately shifts the focus from one person to the other – Briggs takes off the guilt from the doctor who was responsible for administering propofol and breaking his Hippocratic oath, and places it on the patient who trusted his doctor and put himself in his hands.
It would be the same as you invited a professional pyrotechnic to your garden to arrange fireworks for your guests and he burned down the house due to his gross negligence – and now everyone accuses you of this crime though it was actually he who did it. Of course now you wish you had never done it, but on the other hand how could you know?
No, it isn’t the owner of the house or even the fireworks which are to really blame for the fire. It is the man who did it all and convinced you that making it on the roof is perfectly safe and even the best solution. Your only fault is that you were too naïve to believe his stories and think that you are safe under his expert guidance.
So if anyone was playing a death game with Michael’s life it was Murray. He didn’t have any monitoring equipment or measuring devices and didn’t know a thing about the effect of the drug and the way to administer it. Michael was sure that he was in competent hands and was told (evidently by Murray) that propofol was safe if his condition was monitored.
However Briggs turns it into a big and catchy story about Michael “playing the Russian roulette by taking drugs”. But Michael wasn’t taking drugs – they were given to him by a doctor. And when Dr. Shimelman said that Michael had only one week to live in Murray’s hands he was talking only of the doctor and not Michael or even propofol.
Briggs was referring to Dr. Shimelman’s deposition he had read but none of the jurors saw, and if Dr. Shimelman really said that Michael could die any night under Murray’s supervision he was absolutely right.
In fact with total lack of monitoring equipment Michael could have died the first time Murray administered propofol because Murray was adjusting the dripping manually. For propofol this method is out of the question as each extra drop can stop the patient’s breathing in no time.
By the way though everyone calls a deadly voluntary risk a Russian roulette we Russians never play it. Probably someone did centuries ago but now even the darest of us would not risk it. So much talk about it is just a big hype.
- Panish asked if Dr. Murray was a risk to MJ’s health.
- Briggs: I wasn’t focused on the risk, I was focused on a doctor assessing a record after the fact.
- Panish: If Dr. Murray isn’t in the question, there’s no risk, right, sir?
- Briggs: It appears in determining his life expectancy Dr. Shimelman took in consideration Dr. Murray.
- Briggs: There are all kinds of risks, like risk of relapse, risk of the manner he’s taking the drugs.
- Briggs: This is not my opinion, I’m not a doctor, I was relying on Dr. Shimelman’s testimony (about one week to live).
- Briggs: Dr. Earley said the way MJ was taking drugs was like playing Russian roulette.
- Briggs’ note says Dr. Shimelman — Die any night
- Briggs: That’s what I recall from the testimony.
- Panish: Isn’t it true Dr. Earley never blamed MJ for his addiction?
- Briggs: I was asked to assess forecast earnings, not blame.
- Briggs: To a lay person, Dr. Earley’s testimony that MJ was playing Russian roulette is talking about life expectancy.
- Panish said Dr. Earley wasn’t asked to opined on MJ’s life expectancy. Briggs read Dr. Earley’s deposition and that’s what it reads.
- Briggs: Just to be clear, I can’t assess anyone’s life expectancy.
- Briggs said he relied on AEG’s attorney to give him all the relevant materials related to what he’s been asked to opine.
- The expert said he didn’t review MJ’s autopsy report, since he has no ability to read it.
- Briggs said one of the experts he reviewed stated the normal actuary doesn’t apply to MJ’s life and behavior.
- Briggs relied on Dr. Earley’s testimony. He was unable to give a life expectancy to MJ because he wasn’t hired for that.
- Dr. Shimelman said if Dr. Murray remained in the picture, MJ would live only another week.
- Dr. Schnoll said MJ could’ve been treated by a fit and competent doctor and remove the risk.
- Briggs: Dr. Shimelman stated a life expectancy of one week, I don’t know how someone could perform for 9 months.
- Panish: AEG thought MJ could do 50 shows, didn’t they, sir?
- Briggs: AEG had a plan for 50 shows, they had a budget for 50 shows, they were interested in doing 50 shows.
NOTE: This is another sample of Briggs’ twisted logic and evasive vocabulary – AEG not only planned and thought that Michael could do 50 shows, but they actually sold tickets for 50 shows and without asking Michael’s consent too. So feigning surprise about these 50 shows now is ridiculous. All questions should go to AEG please.
As regards fraud in selling tickets Panish will also ask Briggs about, such a conclusion is inevitable if on the one hand they sell 50 shows but on the other hand don’t believe that Michael will be able to perform them.
- Panish asked who was more knowledgeable in concerts, if Briggs or Paul Gongaware. Briggs responded it depends which aspect of the business.
- Brigss: AEG did not hire me before February of this year.
- Panish: Did AEG ever hire you to see if the show would happen or not?
- Panish: Was AEG fraudulently selling tickets for the shows?
- Briggs: I can’t opine on that, I’m not an expert in fraud.
- Briggs: If I were hired, I’d have told my opinion that it’s speculative that the 9 months would have been completed.
- It appeared they (AEG) believed the shows would’ve gone forward, Briggs testified.
- Panish asked if AEG only hired him 3 and half years after MJ was dead. Briggs said yes.
- Panish: Live Nation hired you to assess concert and feasibility?
- Briggs: No
- Judge then adjourned trial until 9:45 am PT tomorrow. Attorneys ordered at 9:30 am to discuss trial issues with the judge.
- Next potential witnesses: Randy Jackson (via video depo), Michael La Perruque (MJ’s former head of security), Debbie Rowe, Rebbie Jackson
- For all the latest, watch our newscasts @ABC7Courts or http://www.abc7.com . We hope to see you tomorrow for full trial coverage!
WEDNESDAY JULY 31, 2013. DAY 60
The third day of Briggs’ testimony brought some clarification to the mess with the Estate and the ATV/Sony catalogue.
Now we learn that Briggs never discussed any conflict of interest with Ms. Cohen of the Estate, so consequently she could never waive it – he simply never asked her opinion about it.
If you compare it with what that article about Briggs said (“he sought and gained permission from the Jackson estate lawyer Jeryll Cohen to waive any potential conflict of interest”) you will see that someone is telling a big lie here.
Whatever was remaining of Briggs by then Panish ripped it into complete shreds. Panish methodically went over several issues, including the following:
– Briggs’ employees just fresh from school charge $350 per hour and Briggs doesn’t even know what job they did for the project.
– Gongaware planned to arrange 186 shows for Michael and was supposed to make for him $1,1 billion at the average price of $108 per ticket even according to AEG’s own estimation.
– The tour of U2 grossed a big sum however Michael’s tickets for the History tour cost $37 only and made one third of the ticket for U2 shows, so for any comparisons to be accurate the profit the History tour should have been three times as much as the one actually collected.
– Arthur Erk’s projection for several years of Michael future earnings was no speculation because AEG had a tour with Michael for three years (until 2012).
– The coroner’s report did not state a single reason that could have reduced Michael’s life expectancy, however Briggs says he did not read it, though MJ’s life expectancy was central to his testimony.
– Briggs read Tom Barrack’s deposition, but did not notice him saying that Michael could earn $500 a year if he put his head to it.
– All performers cancel their concerts, however Briggs made his judgment of MJ’s cancellation rate without comparing it with anyone else, and now he admits that he doesn’t know the figures.
– Briggs said that he was taking his information from the Internet and agreed that every 6th grader can do the same.
In short the cross-examination was so much bloodshed that at some point I even felt sorry for Briggs. Panish was relentless.
Wednesday July 31 DAY 60
- Hello from the courthouse in downtown LA. Day 60 of Jackson family vs AEG trial to get underway soon.
- Attorneys and judge are discussing future testimony and what will be and won’t be allowed to come in.
- Defendants’ retained expert witness, Eric Briggs, will resume cross examination once trial begins today.
- Rebbie Jackson is also expected to testify this week, but she’s sick. Randy Jackson will testify via video deposition.
- Also coming soon to the stand is Debbie Rowe, the biological mother of two of MJ’s children and a nurse who treated the artist.
- We’ll bring you all the details of today’s testimony as soon as we can. Remember, judge does not allow live tweet.
- Eric Briggs was back on the stand. Brian Panish did cross examination. Katherine Jackson was present in white jacket with green leaves.
- Panish asked Briggs who he contacted at the Estate of Michael Jackson to waive potential conflict of interest.
- I believe FTI checked for conflict of interest, Briggs said. He said he received a form and the conflict of interest check was marked.
- The expert said he doesn’t know who made the call to the Estate, if it was him or his partner.
- Briggs: As far as I’m concerned, everything I’ve done for Estate and everything I’ve done on this matter have nothing to do with each other.
- Panish: Sir, did you testify you discussed the potential for a conflict of interest with AEG’s attorneys?
- Briggs: I never viewed it as a potential conflict of interest, I don’t think I characterized it that way.
- I discussed my previous engagements with O’Melveny & Myers, Briggs said.
- Panish asked which lawyers Briggs discussed at OMM the potential for conflict of interest. He said Sabrina Strong and perhaps Jessica Bina.
- Briggs met with AEG’s lawyers for about 15-20 minutes yesterday and another 15-20 minutes this morning.
- Panish: Yesterday, you said you met with Ms. Cohen (attorney for the Estate), correct?
- Briggs: Yes
- Panish: Did Ms. Cohen say to you she waived any potential conflict between you, FTI, and the Estate of Michael Jackson?
- Briggs: Ms. Cohen did not say that
- Panish asked if Briggs called Ms. Cohen to talk about the potential conflict of interest before his deposition. He said he doesn’t recall
- Panish: Did you ask Ms. Cohen to waive any potential conflict of interest?
- Briggs: I did not ask her that specific question
- Panish asked Briggs if he’s produced his time records related to this case. He said he turned the subpoena to FTI’s general counsel.
- Panish: Has any attorneys for AEG told you that the court issued an order to you to produce your time records forthwith (immediately?
- Briggs: No, my recollection is that the document was a subpoena.
- Panish tells Briggs there’s a signed order to produce his time record in this case. Briggs asked to see it, since he doesn’t have it.
- Panish showed several bills from FTI for Briggs without itemization of the work done. They are for $55,000, $189,000, $123,000, $155,902.
- Panish points out there are two employees just out of school earning $350/hr. He asked where their time sheets were.
- You’d expect someone working for that kind of money would produce records of what they worked on Panish asked. Briggs said he doesn’t know.
- Panish: Does your company check the time worked before submitting bill to a client?
- Briggs: I understand there’s a check system in place, but I don’t know how it works.
- Panish asked if Briggs’ company has a billing department and itemization of work done. He said yes to first, doesn’t know the second.
- Panish questioned Briggs, extensively, about all the bills FTI submitted and if he knew the specific work performed for each bill.
“My opinion is that it’s speculative he would earn any money working”, Briggs opined.
- Panish: Your opinion is that MJ wouldn’t earn a dime for future work?
- Briggs: Yes, taking the consideration the risk factors we know today
- Briggs: MJ’s ability to secure endorsements from financial companies would be impacted by negative headlines associated with his debts
- Panish asked if Pepsi, Nike, Red Bull, soft drink companies are financial companies. Briggs said no.
- Briggs said that in matters he bills clients by the hour, he’s always charged $800 per hour. Other possibility is to charge flat fee.
- The expert clarified that he probably didn’t charge $800/hour in the beginning of his career.
- Panish asked Briggs if he was aware of anything that AEG did specifically to assess MJ’s health.
- In his deposition, Briggs said he does not know anything specifically that AEG did to assess MJ’s health.
- Panish asked if Briggs included merchandising revenue in the chart he made. Briggs said Erk testified the numbers included merchandising.
- Briggs conceded he doesn’t know independently whether the merchandising revenue is included in the numbers.
- I was absolutely comparing apples to apples, Briggs said.
- Panish asked if U2 360 had 97,000 people at the Rose Bowl. Briggs said U2 was a 360 degree and they were able to fit a record crowd.
- Panish inquired about Meglen’s testimony saying 97,000 people was not true. Briggs said he doesn’t think that’s what Meglen testified.
- 1- U2 360 in 2009 — 110 shows, $101, average 66K people
- 2- Rolling Stones — 144 shows, $119, average 32K people
- 3- AC/DC — 167 shows, $91, average 29K people
- 4- Madonna — 85 shows, $115, average 42K people
- MJ’s HIStory tour averaged 55K people, average ticket was $37, which is one third of U2’s ticket price.
- The last MJ show was about 10-12 years prior to U2. U2 averaged 66K people.
- Panish did this calculation: 55k (average of MJ’s audience) x 186 shows (Gongaware’s plan) x $108 (average TII ticket) = $1.1. billion
- Panish: $108 ticket price times 55 thousand people times 186 shows, how does that come out sir?
- Briggs: That is roughly $1.1 billion
- Panish asked if there were drug use allegations regarding The Rolling Stones and AC/DC members.
- Briggs said yes, there were headlines about it. Panish asked if it was the same headlines Briggs referred to about Michael Jackson.
- Briggs said MJ’s drug use he analyzed was based on testimony in this trial, not tabloid headlines.
- Briggs: Yes, I think AEG wanted to go on a worldwide tour with Michael Jackson.
- Panish: How many concerts did Gongaware estimated to do?
- Briggs: In Sept 2008, prior to an agreement with MJ?
- Panish: Yes
- Briggs: 186.
- Panish inquired if Dr. Shimelman testified that without Conrad Murray MJ would have had a normal life expectancy.
- Briggs: What he said is that he was not able to offer a statement with the doctor out of the picture and that is significant.
- Panish asked if Dr. Earley said MJ should not be to blame for his addiction. Briggs said yes, but said addicts should take responsibility
- Briggs agreed that AEG entered into a 3 year contract with Michael Jackson.
- There was wide spread media coverage, over the years, of MJ’s drug usage, Briggs said.
- Panish: You’d expect AEG, someone in the business, to know about MJ’s drug use
- Briggs: I’d generally expect they’d be aware of the headlines
- Panish compared Briggs to an armchair quarterback after the fact, issuing opinion after the fact.
- Briggs: My opinion, of course, is more informed than the one made at the time
- Panish: Did you know AEG paid a medical doctor to exam Michael Jackson, yes or no?
- Briggs: No
- Panish: Did you know AEG paid money to have Dr. Slavit to check Michael Jackson?
- Briggs: I didn’t have that specific knowledge
- There was a physical on MJ in the beginning of 2009, Briggs said. He added he doesn’t know who hired the doctor and who paid him.
- Briggs said he recall reading about MJ getting a physical and that everything was fine.
- Briggs: My information is that the physical was passed and that there were no significant issues.
- Panish: In your opinion that MJ wouldn’t complete 50 shows, you didn’t consider Dr Slavit?
- Briggs: I don’t know if I reviewed it prior to depo
- Panish: Were you aware coroner said MJ didn’t have any medical problem at the time of his death that would’ve his life expectancy reduced?
- Briggs: I don’t recall that specific testimony, my knowledge is that the coroner’s report was introduced through doctor testimony.
- My opinion is based after the facts, what we know today, Briggs testified.
- Panish asked how many Dangerous shows were canceled. Briggs said in his opinion is between 3 to 10. He said he did research about it.
- Panish wanted to know why Briggs didn’t bring the documents he relied on regarding the cancelation of the Dangerous tour.
- Panish asked the judge to admonish Briggs to answer the questions several times throughout the morning.
- When attorney asked the judge again, judge said: “I keep advising him, but…”
- Panish: How old were you in 1993?
- Briggs: About 17-18
- Panish asked how many shows MJ performed in his career. Briggs said he doesn’t know for sure, thinks it’s 270 approximately.
- Briggs said he cannot tell Panish what each specific bill means in terms of itemization of work done.
- Panish asked if there’s any document detailing the time spent on the task and who did what regarding this case.
- Briggs: To my knowledge, that information does not exist.
- Panish wanted to know what type of time calculation software FTI uses. Briggs said he doesn’t know.
- Briggs testified he doesn’t know if his company has been paid or not.
- Briggs said in terms of actual dates, approximately 1.4% of the Dangerous shows were canceled.
- Briggs reviewed Tom Barrack’s testimony. Panish asked if Barrack said if MJ wanted to, he could earn $500 million a year. Briggs said no.
- Barrack runs Colony Capital, an investment company. It’s a multi-billion dollar entity.
- Panish showed deposition of Barrack with interview saying MJ was a guy who could make $500 million a year if he put his head to it.
- Panish: Barrack wanted to invest in Mr. Jackson and do work with him in the future, right, sir?
- Briggs: Yes
NOTE: Next some clarification arrives as regards the estimation done by Briggs of the ATV/Sony catalogue.
We learn that that the Government (IRS) checked up the value of the catalogue and informed the Estate that its value was much higher than they stated.
After that the Estate evidently approached Briggs for explanations because it was Briggs who did the evaluation soon after Michael’s death. Now Panish is asking Briggs for details but he says it is confidential information. All those in court argue whether he can talk about it or not.
It must have been so heated a discussion that the judge even had to excuse herself to the jury saying that these arguments is what they usually do in the chambers and now they know what it’s like.
- Panish: Government has stated one MJ asset is worth twice his debt, isn’t it, sir?
- Briggs: The only information I have in that respect is from attorneys of the Estate of Michael Jackson and I’m concerned with confidentiality
- Panish: You are well aware the value of one asset is doubled any debt he had, isn’t that, sir?
- Briggs: The only information I received in this regard came from lawyers of the Estate of Michael Jackson.
- Briggs: They hired us to perform work related to Sony ATV catalogue as of the date of MJ’s death.
- Panish argues there’s no attorney-client privilege,and Briggs should be ordered to answer.
- Briggs said he only learned about what he knows of what the government claims regarding Sony ATV catalogue from the Estate.
- Judge and attorneys extensively argued whether Briggs has attorney-client privilege with the Estate of Michael Jackson.
- Judge to the jurors: Now you know what we do in chambers. That’s the stuff we argue about.
- Panish asked if MJ paid for Katherine Jackson’s bills and expenses. Briggs said he doesn’t recall the specific comments.
- Panish asked if MJ bought his mother a $500,000 motorhome. Briggs said he doesn’t recall.
- Panish wanted to know if Briggs reviewed all the relevant documents in this case. He said the attorneys gave him documents, he asked others
- Briggs identified 3 primary risks:
- – Health/medical experts
- – Projects falling through/cancellations
- – Industry/precedent
- Panish asked where Dr. Murray was in the risk. Briggs said he did not take Dr. Murray into account.
- Panish: What’s Madonna’s cancellation rate?
- Briggs: I don’t know
- Panish mentioned U2 canceled shows for Bono’s back surgery, Madonna canceled show to be with her family, Guns N’Roses canceled and returned.
- Panish asked about Eric Clapton and Van Halen’s cancellation of shows. Briggs doesn’t recall how many were canceled.
- Panish said Briggs got his information from articles out of the internet.
- Panish: All of these information, someone in 6th grade would be able to get the same exact information off the internet, correct, sir?
- Briggs: They may have the same information but the interpretation is absolutely different.
- Panish: Are you saying all these people are risks and no one should do business with them?
- Briggs: I didn’t say that
- Panish asked how many shows AEG does in a year. Briggs said he doesn’t know.
- Briggs estimated hundreds, perhaps thousands shows happen in a year around the world.
- Panish: Did you take in consideration Randy Phillips and Dr. Murray had shared responsibility to get MJ into rehearsal? Briggs didn’t recall
- Panish showed email saying Phillips and Dr. Murray were responsible for getting MJ to rehearsal. Briggs said he doesn’t recall it.
- Briggs said that sometimes his clients don’t follow their advice. “Our advice is not always right,” the expert said.
- The truth of my opinion has nothing to do with how much we’re being paid in this case, Briggs testified.
- Panish asked what specific work Matthew did. Briggs said he researched cities Erk said concerts would take place, audience capacity, arenas
- In deposition, an attorney asked Briggs if he performed specific calculation to demand in India for a MJ show in 2009-2012.
- Briggs said he did not nor was he aware of any material to enable them to make projections about India.
- Panish: Could Mr. Jackson make movies?
- Briggs: Yes
- Panish: Do you agree Mj could have toured?
- Briggs: Had he lived, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have acted in movies?
- Briggs: It’s possible, sure
- Panish: How much actors get paid for good movies?
- Briggs: It vary from a few million to many millions of dollars
- Panish: MJ could have made records?
- Briggs: Yes, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have been involved in movies?
- Briggs: Yes, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have done tours?
- Briggs: Yes, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have gotten endorsements?
- Briggs: Yes, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have sold merchandise?
- Briggs: To the extent the shows happened, it’s possible
- Panish: Could he have done a residency shows in Las Vegas?
- Briggs: It’s possible
- Panish: Did you look into MJ having a residency show with Celine Dion?
- Briggs: I’m not aware of that
- Katherine Jackson stated that Michael Jackson didn’t want to be moonwalking at 50 years old, Briggs said.
- Panish: Did Ortega testify he discussed with MJ going on a worldwide tour and going to India?
- Briggs: I don’t recall that in trial testimony
- Panish asked if Ortega testified that he wanted to do films with MJ and wanted to be involved in anything Jackson related. Briggs said yes.
- Panish inquired if Taj Jackson also testified about MJ wanting to do movies. Briggs answered yes.
- Panish asked about album “Thriller 25” released in 2006 or 2007. Briggs said he concentrated on MJ’s brand new albums in his chart.
- I would describe it (Thriller 25) as successful re-release, Briggs said.
- Panish asked how many people “Q” score company surveys. Briggs said he thinks they measure about 1800 people. Panish said it’s 1400.
- Briggs said the “Q” scores measure people in the US. Panish asked if it were measured around the world. Briggs said there wasn’t available.
- Panish: All you have is 1800 people surveyed across the United States?
- Briggs: That’s correct
- The Q” score was not relevant to ticket sales” Briggs said. Panish asked how the ticket sales went in London. Briggs responded “very well”
- Panish: Mr. Gongaware had no concern that Mr. Jackson could do 50 shows, correct?
- Briggs: With the information he had, it appeared that way
- Outside the presence of the jury, attorneys and judge discussed about what Briggs recalls regarding Gongaware’s testimony.
- Judge: It seems like he doesn’t recall, or doesn’t want to recall, the testimony.
NOTE: From the next piece we more or less begin to understand what is happening between Briggs, the Estate and AEG.
First of all Panish said that the Estate had not given Briggs a permission to testify in this case. So evidently the Estate lawyers do see his testimony here as a conflict of interest.
Then we learn that Briggs undervalued the ATV/Sony catalogue – both in 2009 and consequently in all other cases when various parties approached him. He undervalued it when Fortress asked for an estimation, when Sony/ATV Music Publishing themselves asked for it and when most probably Tom Barrack was evaluating it too.
If Barrack also approached Briggs and used his wrong estimation it would be extremely important as it was actually after Barrack presented the situation as ‘desperate’ to Michael that he agreed to work with AEG.
But now we learn that the actual value of the catalogue is much higher (according to government estimation), so Michael was totally misguided in his understanding of his own finances and was put under too much unnecessary pressure by his advisors who at that time were Tohme and Barrack. Panish said Michael could have gone on spending money for another 30 years and still have money to his credit.
Even after all those clarifications the situation is still a mess:
- Briggs doesn’t know whether he is subpoenaed by the IRS as up till now he got information only from the Estate.
- The IRS is now in discussions with the Estate but no one can say what kind of investigation is going on (Putnam says they can’t ask).
- And no one knows whether there is a conflict of interest in Briggs’ testifying for AEG but simultaneously having access to information about the catalogue and having done a job for the Estate. The judge wants a representative of the Estate to come and say whether they waived the conflict of interest or whether they didn’t.
And for the dessert of it: Briggs says that Branca did not say anything positive about Michael’s ability to make money, however then he clarifies himself saying that he never asked about it because “the positives were apparent to him” and “he knew them very well” anyway. This looks like another of those cases when Briggs allegedly “sought and gained permission from the Estate” but later you find out that he did not even ask.
Briggs is to go on with this testimony on Thursday too, so the thrill, mess and fun of it will evidently continue.
ABC tweets say about it:
- Panish: The IRS has called into question what this witness is trying to say. The Estate never gave witness waiver to testify in this case.
- Panish: He never had permission, never had waiver. I believe the true facts will show he didn’t contact Ms. Cohen until after his deposition
- Panish: There’s no privilege regarding the value of ATV catalogue being double the amount of MJ’s debts.
- Panish: His credibility is seriously at issue here, there’s no privilege whatsoever
- Bina: Briggs said he believes debt aspect would make MJ not appealable to endorsements.
- Bina: Ackerman has analyzed in great detail MJ’s spending, debt. She said her understanding that conflict of interest has been waived.
- Bina: The government and his company may have a different understanding as to the catalogue value.
- Judge: What kind of investigation is that?
- Putnam: We don’t know, we can’t ask.
- Bina: There’s no conflict of interest. Besides that, Erk didn’t consider the ATV catalogue value and debts.
- Panish: They want to show he was destitute and had not money. That’s not true, he could’ve spent money for 30 years and still not be in debt.
- Bina: He cleared the engagement for work on this case, not the debt.
- Judge: It sounds pretty suspicious to me.
- Bina: It doesn’t matter whether MJ was in debt (for endorsement), but the negative perception he was in debt was sufficient.
- Boyle: He said that the value of the ATV catalogue was less than the debt. And that’s not true. He knows it’s not true.
- Boyle: According to the IRS, it’s much higher than the debt.
- Judge: I don’t understand him claiming privilege as to what the IRS says the value of the catalogue is
- Panish asked if Briggs has done extensive work regarding the value of Sony ATV catalogue.
- Briggs said yes, for Goldman Sachs; Sony ATV, not corporate; Fortress Capital; Estate of MJ; Law firm in 2007.
- Briggs said it’s all in connection with the evaluation of Sony ATV catalogue. The expert said he gets rehired some times.
- Briggs has given valuation opinions in writing, which is easily accessible.
- Briggs: The work was performed after MJ’s death, but the valuation is of date of death.
- Panish: You don’t consider IRS putting into question your work a major problem?
- Briggs: IRS review about valuation is very commonplace, specially in large estates.
- Judge: It sounds like you have info not subject to privilege, with other companies that ordered the valuation.
- Panish: He put a very low value on the catalogue and said it is less than MJ’s debts, when the IRS valued it twice.
- Panish said the value ranges from a billion to 8 billion dollars. He knows the IRS has given much higher value, the attorney argued.
- Perry Sanders: the other side could stipulate there’s another valuation that says the Sony catalogue is almost 2 times the debt.
- Bina: The problem is that we don’t know the answer, we don’t know that to be true.
- Panish asked if Briggs has been subpoenaed by IRS. He said he’s not aware.
- Briggs: I understand the IRS is in discussions with the Estate.
- Judge said to get the Estate lawyer in court to see if there’s a waiver.
- Panish: If Briggs said something that’s not true, it goes against his credibility.
- Bina said MJ’ business manager said MJ had no ability to borrow money and had no money at time of death.
- Panish: That’s not true! He didn’t know how much catalogue was worth, had $6 million in an account that Tohme was holding, so he had money.
- Jury then entered the courtroom. Testimony resumed.
- Panish asked Briggs if he knows the average ticket price for MJ’s show was $108. He said it’s approximately right.
- John Branca is a prominent entertainment attorney. Briggs said he was brought back around the time MJ died.
- Briggs doesn’t recall Branca saying he believes MJ could have done the 50 shows.
- Panish: All you remember is the things that were against MJ?
- Briggs: My opinion is not against MJ.
- Panish asked if Briggs noted anything positive that Branca said regarding MJ’s ability to make money. He said he doesn’t believe he did.
- Briggs: The positive I knew quite well, so there’s no notes to that, the positives were apparent.
- Briggs said the points in his outline is to support his opinion, since the positive things he already knew about.
- Briggs said he reviewed Shawn Trell’s trial testimony of 4 days but does not recall anything he said that was relevant to his opinion.
- Briggs said the figures below are for ticket sales and merchandising:
- Prod 1 — $94 million
- Prod 2 — $107 million
- Briggs said there’s a non-appearance insurance on the budget. Lloyds of London charged $450,000 for the premium.
- Panish: How much did the pay out was?
- Briggs: I have no idea
- Court adjourned until tomorrow at 10 am PT. Attorneys ordered at 9:45 am PT to discuss conflict of interest.
- Next witnesses:
- Eric Briggs
- MJ’s estate attorney Howard Weitzman to appear as well.
- Barry Seagal (MJ financial advisor to talk about his spending)
- Michael La Perruque (former head of MJ’s security)
- For all the latest watch @ABC7 and http://www.abc7.com . We hope to see you tomorrow for complete coverage. Have a great night everyone!
BEGINNING OF THE DISASTER
On the fourth day of the week all this information began to sink and what initially looked like a comedy began to acquire its truly tragic meaning.
Look at this picture of Michael Jackson taken on May 22, 2008:
Michael is attending the 50th birthday party of Christian Audigier here and the photo is taken exactly a year before Michael died. He looks perfectly fine here.
But though Michael is still looking great it is at this very moment that the future disaster is actually beginning.
Tom Barrack and Tohme Tohme are already in the picture.
On May 11, 2008 Barrack bought a foreclosure note on Neverland presenting it as a big favor to Michael though he was simply bying great property at a minimal price. Neverland was turned into a joint venture with a minimal stake for MJ.
Barrack’s financial advisors look into the numbers provided by Eric Briggs to Fortress and claim that Michael’s financial situation is so desperate that going back on stage is his only choice.
Michael takes the news very hard but eventually agrees to go back to touring. Barrack calls his friend Phil Anschutz of AEG and forces Michael into the deal.
This is how it started.
And now we learn that all of it began with this jolly Eric Briggs who minimized the value of Michael’s assets and stated that they were too low to cover his loans?
No, I no longer feel sorry for this fraudster. I hope he also gets what he deserves.
This is how the disaster began:
Barrack’s turn into entertainment investing began with a visit to Michael Jackson’s home in Las Vegas in 2008. Barrack had received a call from Tohme Tohme, a fellow Lebanese-American who had become Jackson’s business manager. Jackson hadn’t released a new album or done a world tour in years, but he had three significant assets: the Neverland property, the MiJac catalogue of his own music, and the enormous Sony/ATV catalogue, which included, among other songs, most of the Beatles’ oeuvre.
Jackson was facing a crisis, Tohme said. The holder of $270 million in loans to Jackson was foreclosing on Neverland and planned to sell it in five days. Would Barrack meet with Jackson? “It’s so not Tom’s thing,” Lowe says. “Getting roped into spending half an hour with Michael Jackson in some weird house is just not on his agenda.”
Somewhat grudgingly, Barrack arrived at Jackson’s fifties stucco rental on Palomino Lane. “Not one blade of grass,” Barrack says. “The house was old and musty.” The 1,000-plus-page Sony/ATV catalogue was on the table between them, and Barrack was quickly won over. “For sure, the guy is an absolute genius,” Barrack says. “He was remembering not just songs but every performance, every date, every script.”
When it came to business matters, though, Jackson was lost. He knew only that if Neverland was foreclosed on as scheduled, it would trigger a cascade of financial devastation. For the past decade, he had repeatedly staved off financial reckoning by borrowing. Now he was out of options.
As a rule, Barrack is drawn to distressed situations. One of his rules for success.
Barrack had a relationship with the loan holder, Fortress, and was able to get an extension to give his Colony team time to crunch the numbers. They concluded that the only way to make a deal work would be for Jackson to start generating new revenue, which meant performing old material.
Two days later, Barrack called Jackson. “I told him: ‘Where you are is an insolvable puzzle unless you’re willing to go back to work. If you’re willing to do that, then we can help, but if you’re not willing to do that, it’s just presiding over a funeral.’ ” At first, Jackson demurred. “He really had a hard time with that, and he struggled for about three days. Finally, he calls back and says, ‘You’re right, I’ll do it.’ ”
Colony agreed to bail out Jackson; in return, the firm would take ownership of Neverland and arrange for AEG, the concert promoter owned by Barrack’s friend Phil Anschutz, to stage a comeback.
… Jackson moved into a gated $100,000-a-month mansion in Bel-Air to prepare for a run of 50 concerts in London that would relaunch his career.
THURSDAY AUGUST 1, DAY 61
Here is an article by Alan Duke explaining that the Estate never allowed Briggs to help AEG in Katherine’s case against AEG and that Briggs undervalued Michael’s share in the ATV catalog by up to $300 mln:
Michael Jackson estate denies allowing expert to help AEG Live
By Alan Duke, CNNupdated 7:17 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Los Angeles (CNN) — Michael Jackson’s estate never gave an expert it hired permission to help AEG Live defend against the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jackson’s mother and children, the estate’s top lawyer said Thursday.
The revelation raised questioned about the testimony of entertainment industry consultant Eric Briggs, who was hired by AEG Live to challenge the Jacksons’ expert opinions concerning damages the concert promoter might owe if found liable in the singer’s death.
Briggs told the court this week that his company — FTI Consultants — had gotten a waiver from a Jackson estate lawyer before agreeing to work on the concert promoter’s defense.
Briggs had signed a confidentiality agreement with the Jackson estate in 2010 when he was hired to determine the value of its biggest asset — the Sony-ATV music catalog that includes the Beatles songs — for the estate’s tax filings in 2010.
He was hired by AEG Live lawyers in February to prepare a challenge of the opinion of an expert hired by the Jackson lawyers to calculate how much money the singer would have earned had he not died while working on his comeback concerts in 2009.
Briggs said he — or someone else in his company — gained permission from the Jackson estate lawyer Jeryll Cohen to waive any potential conflict of interest.
“No one from the estate or any lawyers authorized or waived any potential conflict for FTI or Mr. Briggs,” Jackson estate attorney Howard Weitzman wrote in an e-mail read in court Thursday.
Such a waiver would be counter to the interests of the estate’s beneficiaries — Jackson’s mother and three children, a Jackson lawyer said.
Despite the conflict, the judge ordered Briggs to answer questions posed by Katherine Jackson’s lawyers about the music catalog. He said although his valuation placed Jackson’s interest in the catalog at about the same level as Jackson’s debt at the time of his death — which he said was $400 million — the IRS challenged it as low.
An independent analyst hired by the IRS concluded he had undervalued Jackson’s interest in the catalog by up to $300 million, Briggs testified.
Jackson lawyers argue it is evidence the singer was not broke when he died, contrary to what Briggs said in his testimony.
Briggs testified this week that it was his opinion that it was speculative that Jackson would have earned a dime more in his life if he had not died of a propofol overdose on June 25, 2009. He based his opinion on the testimony of a doctor who said earlier that he did not think Jackson would have lived even another week past that date.
Panish, however, pointed out that the doctor’s opinion was based on the assumption that Dr. Conrad Murray would still be giving Jackson nightly infusions of propofol — the surgical anesthetic the coroner said killed him — as a treatment for insomnia. The Jackson’s suit contends AEG Live is liable because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray.
SORTING OUT THE MESS
And at the end of the week I read one of the transcripts of Erick Briggs’s testimony and this helped to realize a few things.
First of all Briggs produced a very strange impression of someone who was either totally unprofessional or was covering up for something. See for yourself:
1) His company has 4000 employees. Out of all those people he says he was assisted in his evaluation of Michael Jackson’s earning capacity by a certain Matthew Mucinow. This Matthew has been with the company for a year after college and Briggs doesn’t even know what he majored in. In other words he doesn’t know what the person who did this top important estimation for him is even specializing in!
2) As regards the problem of that ‘waiver’ from the Estate and Michael’s catalog now I am beginning to see the situation in a totally different way.
Briggs said that Michael would not get any endorsement deals because he was in debt. Panish said that in order to state that a person is in debt one should compare his assets with his liabilities, so please state where you took your numbers from. AEG’s attorneys immediately sprang up to object saying it was confidential information. But the question is – if it is so confidential why did Briggs raise it at all?
If he said that the value of Michael’s assets was lower than the debt he needed to prove it, but proof was exactly what he could not provide due to a confidentiality agreement with the Estate.
So the problem was not in that waiver from the Estate, but in the fact that AEG KNEW that Briggs could not explain himself but they nevertheless allowed him to drop that bomb and most probably even encouraged him to do it.
3) It seems that there is indeed a very big conflict of interest in connection with Briggs. If Briggs said, when speaking for AEG, that Michael’s assets were lower than his liabilities it means that he did disclose this confidential information to AEG. He probably did not give them the numbers but he stated the fact, thus using the information obtained from his earlier estimation of the catalog for the Estate.
But if AEG had retained another evaluation expert he would not have provided to them this information, and this is where the big difference is. And this is probably why AEG paid so much to Briggs – for getting access to his very special knowledge.
4) Giving AEG access to this information (not in numbers, but in relative terms) but denying it to Panish turns the situation into something totally outrageous. Briggs makes some top important statements, but Panish cannot check them because Briggs says it is “confidential”!
Putnam tells Panish to go to the Estate and ask them, but Panish says that the Estate refused to give them any numbers. The Estate did not give any numbers to AEG either, but AEG did not need the numbers – all they needed was an answer from Briggs to a question “Are MJ’s assets lower than his liabilities?” to which Briggs most probably just nodded. And that was it.
The number here is not that important, it is the fact itself which AEG wanted to get from Briggs.
5) And later on we hear that the number which Briggs used in his evaluation is not correct as IRS has just estimated the catalog much higher – by up to $300 mln for Michael Jackson’s part alone. Again we don’t know the numbers but it nevertheless completely overturns the situation – now the assets become higher than the liabilities, and by a very big sum too.
But AEG did not know of it and retained this particular expert to come and drop a bomb in the courtroom that MJ was deeply in debt and even bankrupt, all this time knowing that Panish WOULD NOT BE ABLE to refute this information as he was not privy to the figures – Briggs will simply not provide them to Panish as he had a confidentiality agreement with the Estate.
And this is probably why AEG paid so much to Briggs.
In short it was a big, a very big game.
By the way if God had not helped us and IRS had not looked into the value of the catalog we wouldn’t have known that Michael’s part was actually much more expensive. The Estate was relying on Briggs’s figures too and most probably would have never disclosed this information to anyone not to hurt their and MJ’s financial interests.
All of it is simply amazing.
Briggs’s July 30th testimony was posted by TeamMichaelJackson: