For some time, I’ve been following Spencer Baumgarten’s bizarre legal battle against ICM, the Hollywood talent agency that merged with CAA earlier this summer. Baumgarten, of course, was the former co-head of ICM’s motion picture department, who was fired in 2019 after being accused of defecating on the floor of a gender-neutral office bathroom. As my Puck partner Matt Belloni wrote a few months ago, there’s a lot going on here: Baumgarten, who was reportedly underperforming his giant salary, alleges that ICM’s human resources chief, Cindy Ballard, spread the poop rumor to force his exit. Indeed, the shit hit the fan just as ICM was courting private equity investors, fueling speculation that the Baumgarten drama was as much about money as anything else.
Nevertheless, that alleged bowel movement is at the center of Baumgarten’s ongoing, three-year lawsuit against ICM, Ballard, and former agency boss Chris Silbermann. Among his claims is a rare instance of alleged self-defamation, meaning he has been compelled to repeat the turd rumor when hunting for new jobs, thus defaming himself. After all, any prospective employer is likely going to ask him to address his termination. (Most states don’t recognize self-defamation as a viable tort, but California is among the handful that do. A 2020 appellate decision made that clear.)
Baumgarten avoided arbitration with his former employer by convincing a trial court, and then a California appeals court, that he didn’t actually agree to the arbitration provisions found in the ICM Operating Agreement. This past week, in a new motion, ICM frames Baumgarten’s success in that regard as a “Pyrrhic victory,” arguing, “Baumgarten now is thus precluded from raising employment-based claims, when he has averred that his employment contract is null.”
More provocatively, ICM also claims in its latest filings that the agency has “security camera footage implicating” Baumgarten as the guy who left feces on the floor—footage which was collected as part of Human Resources’ “privileged” investigation into the mystery pooper.
I’ve asked around, being an intrepid reporter, and have been told that the camera wasn’t actually inside the bathroom but rather just outside, down the hall near reception. Maybe Baumgarten has an explanation for whatever has been caught on camera. I haven’t heard back from his attorney, who just happens to be named Leo Livshits. You can’t make this stuff up.