Lil Wayne’s efforts to get his lawsuit against his former manager and attorney hit a major bump as a New York appeals court recently upheld a prior court’s ruling that key arguments in his $20 million counter-lawsuit against Ronald Sweeney hold no merit.
In December 2020, Sweeney filed a suit against Lil Wayne for money he said was due to him.
Last week, the appellate division ruled four out of 10 of Wayne’s major claims were unfounded, rendering his lawsuit basically hopeless, according to Law.com. The court addressed the four different claims “succinctly, saying each was devoid of any merit,” and thus affirming a 2021 decision from Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Edward D’Auguste, who had dismissed the same four central claims.
Wayne “failed to sufficiently allege how any purported shortcoming by Sweeney was the direct cause of harm,” wrote the six-member panel.
Long and Winding Legal Road
Back in 2020, Sweeney of New York-based Sweeney, Johnson & Sweeney, LLC sued the “Lollipop” artist for unpaid fees, claiming he was not only Wayne’s lawyer for 13 years, from 2005 to 2018, but also worked for the artist in a manager capacity. Sweeney, a high-profile entertainment lawyer and ex-Sony Music exec, was fired by Wayne in 2018.
Lil Wayne, who is worth $150 million, countersued in 2021, alleging that Sweeney’s firm took disproportionate payments from legal settlements with Cash Money Records and Universal Music Group in 2018. The rapper also complained that Sweeney charged him 10 percent to broker deals for him, which is significantly above the standard 5 percent fee.
Lil Wayne sued Birdman’s label, Cash Money Records, in order to have his record deal voided. He accused Cash Money of owing him tens of millions of dollars, including an $8 million advance for “Tha Carter V” album, plus $2 million once the album was finished. Sweeney represented Wayne in the lawsuit and settlement negotiations.
Sweeney’s lawsuit claimed he was unpaid for his commission in the Cash Money/Universal Music Group settlement, said to be worth $20 million.
The lawyer also claims that he has not been compensated for helping Lil Wayne’s career and his successes, saying he is responsible for setting up business deals that helped the artist financially.
Lil Wayne said he was not only being overcharged, but Sweeney also was not fulfilling his managerial duties.
According to the website for his entertainment consulting company, Ron Sweeney & Company, Sweeney has completed “major deals” for clients such as James Brown, Eazy-E, DMX, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Lil Wayne and Young Money. He’s also worked with such artists as Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and Boyz II Men.
Why Lil Wayne Sued
According to Lil Wayne’s lawsuit, Sweeney “fraudulently induced” him into retaining him in 2005 by “representing that he was a lawyer authorized to provide legal services despite having been administratively suspended in California for brief periods around that time.”
Sweeney’s Not Giving Up
Sweeney’s appeals attorney John Harris told Law.com he was “pleased that the Court of Appeals rejected Lil Wayne’s cynical attempt not to pay Ronald Sweeney for the work Mr. Sweeney did for him.”
He stressed Sweeney “will be vigorously pursuing his payment claims and will require Lil Wayne to appear in court to answer for his actions.”
Wayne’s Not Giving Up
Wayne’s lawyer in the case, Jonathan Davis of Jonathan D. Davis P.C., told Law.com in an email that part of Wayne’s suit appears to be valid.
“Lil Wayne will proceed to trial to establish that Sweeney was substantially overpaid for his legal work and that he is not owed a penny,” said Davis.
Additional reporting by Ann Brown.