Azealia Banks Wins More Time to Gather Evidence in Messy Royalties Dispute With Ex–Label Boss

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Azealia Banks Wins More Time to Gather Evidence in Messy Royalties Dispute With Ex–Label Boss

Then, on November 18, 2021, Banks hit back, suing Kwatinetz for claims including breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence. In the counter-complaint, Banks accuses Kwatinetz of “blurring the lines between a fiduciary and a romantic suitor so that he could take financial advantage” of her when she was 23 and he was a 49-year-old CEO.

Along with the personal allegations, the filing details Banks’ financial objections. According to Banks’ counter-complaint, Prospect Park didn’t provide its first accounting statement under its deal with Banks until July 1, 2020—more than five and a half years after the release of Broke With Expensive Taste—and paid out “the miniscule [sic] sum of $15,344.94.” Per the same document, Prospect Park reported almost $1.5 million in album revenues and $1.3 million in costs, and Banks was entitled to 50 percent of “net receipts”—that is, profits after expenses and taxes. Banks and her team contend that Prospect Park’s actual revenues from the album were higher and the label “did not pay for the cost of the production of the album,” which had been long delayed during her previous stint with Interscope Records. (The filing doesn’t explain why $15,000 is so much less than half of the difference between $1.5 million and $1.3 million.)

Since then, the competing lawsuits have largely flown under the radar. Banks’ previous attorney didn’t give a reason for his departure in his court filing requesting to withdraw from the case. And, while Banks has remained a magnet for controversy, recently parting ways with yet another label, she has also returned with a well-received comeback single, “New Bottega.” In a profile earlier this year in The Guardian, Banks addressed how people perceive or misperceive her based on what’s online. “They feel like they can launch frivolous lawsuits and use this villainous, stupid narrative against me,” she said.

Banks’ lawyer, John Vafa, indicated in court filings that he would use his newly granted extra time to gather more evidence about allegedly “massive” discrepancies discussed in an August 4 conference call between Banks’ former lawyer, Kwatinetz’ lawyers, and auditors. According to the paperwork, Prospect Park allegedly “failed to report funds” on “inconsistent 2015 and 2020 accounting statements,” and “deducted expenses not actually paid for,” while Brooklyn Music Distribution, where prior records show Kwatinetz is a director, was “an unnecessary third-party.” Vafa is also seeking a deposition of Kwatinetz. And the filings highlight an alleged conflict of interest, asserting that a former business manager for Banks who signed off on the accounting is now a partner at the auditing firm involved in the case.

In an October 13 filing for Banks, Vafa alleges (emphasis his): “The Court should be alarmed at Plaintiff and Cross-Defendants’ [i.e., Kwatinetz and his camp’s] desperate attempts to conceal and spoil evidence in this action [i.e., the case] with desperate flailing attempts to confuse this Court with multiple inconsistent filings … One thing is clear from the flailing oppositions: Cross-Defendants did not anticipate that cross-complainants’ new counsel of record would accomplish the cumbersome task of reviewing the relevant case files obtained from the predecessor counsel [and locate the August 2023 phone call].”

CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect that the court documents refer to Banks’ mother as “dying,” not deceased.

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