Many artists represented by one of Toronto’s most recognizable talent agencies say they’re owed thousands of dollars, claiming the management company and its president withheld payment for jobs completed months ago.
Now, after the agency announced on Oct. 19 that it was ceasing operations “effective immediately,” many clients fear they will never receive the money the agency was to hold in their name.
The Toronto police financial crimes unit confirmed to the Star it has received more than two dozen complaints regarding Compass Artist Management Inc. as of Wednesday, and said a criminal investigation has been opened.
No charges have been laid and the allegations have not been tested in court.
However, more than half a dozen artists formerly represented by Compass told the Star the agency and its director, Daniel Philip Friedman, failed to deposit their pay into their bank accounts. Those payments are typically sent from production companies to talent agencies, who then pass them on to actors.
In all, about 60 artists estimate they are owed more than $500,000 by the talent agency, according to former Compass client Megan Vincent, who said affected performers are in contact with each other and are tallying up what they are owed. The Star has reviewed many unpaid invoices from former Compass clients but has been unable to independently verify the total amount owed to all artists.
The allegations have sent shock waves across the Toronto entertainment industry, calling into question how artists are paid and how talent agencies are regulated. Compass, which was founded two years ago, was one of the city’s most prolific agencies, with a large roster of artists and a team of agents who were well respected in the industry.
In a statement emailed to the Star, Friedman said he never did anything “with bad intentions” or malice.
“I couldn’t feel worse or be more genuinely sorry and sad about how this has affected people. I hope people will believe I left no stone unturned to try and resolve this before it got to this point,” he told the Star in response to the many allegations. “I also want people to know that I am not sitting on money, assets, secret homes in the Bahamas, etc.”
However, Golden Madison, an actor formerly with Compass who said the company still owes her more than $10,000, said she feels “very used” by the agency.
“None of this should have happened. And I’m going through a lot right now, to be honest, in terms of how I’m going to protect myself as an actor and as a Black woman going forward in this space.”
In an email to the Star, ACTRA Toronto, the union representing professional performers in Canada, said it has received a “substantial number of complaints over the past few months” relating to Compass. According to the union’s records, Compass represented more than 200 ACTRA members.
Madison, who signed with Compass in June, said she became suspicious in September after she failed to receive payment for a gig she completed in July.
Under the terms of her contract with the talent agency, all payment goes through Compass, which deducts a commission fee. The contract further states that Compass “will remit to the Client all monies received on behalf of the Client within five business days of clearance.” The Entertainment Industry Code of Ethical Conduct also has the same stipulation.
Madison wrote to the production company, which confirmed in September that payment was transferred to Compass. She received similar confirmation for four other gigs she completed in the summer. Payment for all five jobs was remitted to Compass by early October, according to documents Madison shared with the Star. As of Oct. 19, she claimed Compass had yet to forward payment for those five jobs, totalling more than $10,000.
Madison reached out to Compass on Sept. 26 to ask about payment for her July gig. Her agent Robyn Friedman, Daniel Friedman’s sister, responded hours later saying she had resigned from Compass.
“I appreciate this news is arriving suddenly, and I truly wish I could have spoken to you in advance to let you know,” reads the email, shared with the Star. “I will never be able to express how difficult it is to write you.”
In an email to the Star, Robyn Friedman said she is “deeply troubled” by the allegations against Compass. “I am no longer with Compass, and at no time was I involved in the management or finances of the company,” she wrote. “I am exploring my own legal action against Compass Artist Management.”
Shortly after Robyn announced on Sept. 26 that she was leaving Compass, Daniel Friedman sent a lengthy email to clients addressing his sister’s departure and the missing payments.
“CAM apologies (sic) and sympathizes with the fact that this can feel both shocking and sudden but promises that we will continue to operate as we have: with a continued and unfaltering commitment for each and every one of our clients,” Friedman said in the email, obtained by the Star.
“We are definitely running behind on some payments. There is no dispute or good justification on that front. We have not always been in this position, and if you’ve been with us for any length of time at all, you know this is an anomaly where we are concerned. And we are and will do our best to address it.”
In the email, Friedman goes on to highlight “an anonymous Instagram account” spreading “hearsay” about Compass. “I feel today as though we are victims of that very destructive pursuit,” he said.
Friedman responded to the allegations against Compass in an email to the Star. He said the Sept. 26 email was written with “good and genuine intentions … But the collective actions of the people and professional organizations involved fanned the flames to the point where we wouldn’t be able to execute on what was written in that letter. It is a frenzy to bring the house down that has ensued on multiple fronts.”
Actor Shaun Hepburn said Compass owes him $7,873. His son, Housten, is owed $22,666, Hepburn said.
“My son is only 10 years old,” said Hepburn. “We trusted (Friedman), and he took advantage of us.”
Multiple emails Hepburn shared with the Star show that Compass acknowledged receipt of many payments from production companies but failed to pass along the funds to Hepburn and his son in a timely manner. Hepburn claims he was paid for some projects only after he asked about missing deposits. Compass has still not paid him for many other projects, Hepburn alleged.
“It’s just ridiculous, and we just feel so helpless,” Hepburn told the Star.
Compass was incorporated Aug. 17, 2020, according to provincial filings. Friedman is listed as the company’s president and chief operating officer.
In a creditor package dated Oct. 19, obtained by the Star, Compass revealed that operations have ceased “effective immediately.” In a letter to creditors and clients, an independent insolvency consultant said the company will wind down under its supervision, stating it would not be economical to proceed with bankruptcy as “costs of administration far exceed any expected realization from the assets.”
On LinkedIn, a page with Friedman’s name on it states he previously worked as a principal agent and manager at Fountainhead Talent Inc. from June 2018 to April 2020 before starting Compass.
Before that, his LinkedIn page states he was as an agent and manager for a year at AMI Management Inc., another large agency in the city.
In a statement to the Star, AMI Management contests that, and said Friedman never worked for the company as an agent or manager, but was hired as an assistant by his sister, Robyn, a former independent contractor for the agency.
In 2008, Friedman filed for bankruptcy, according to records with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. At the time, he had $236,513 in total assets and more than $4.4 million in liabilities.
A decade later in 2018, just before moving from AMI Management to Fountainhead Talent, records show Friedman submitted a consumer proposal. He reported $3,000 in total assets and more than $33,000 in liabilities in the 2018 filing.
(Like personal bankruptcy, a consumer proposal is a debt relief solution. It’s a legally binding process that involves a “proposal” from debtors on how to pay off creditors over a period of time.)
Alistair Hepburn (no relation to Shaun Hepburn), executive director of ACTRA Toronto, said his organization held an information session Friday for affected performers, both union and non-union. A GoFundMe page has also been set up to support affected artists.
Unlike other jurisdictions, including British Columbia and California, Ontario does not have industry licensing standards for talent agents and management companies. Alistair Hepburn said his organization is “hopeful” they will see movement by the provincial government to ensure talent agencies are licensed by the Ministry of Labour.
Clarification — Oct. 26, 2022 — This story has been updated to reflect the fact that AMI Management contests that Danny Friedman worked for AMI as an agent or manager.
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