Obama to Fundraise for Hillary With CEO Facing $127 Million Wage-Theft Suit

DreamWorks Animation offered $50 million to settle wage-theft suit

Jeffrey Katzenberg / AP
October 25, 2016

President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend a Hillary Clinton fundraiser hosted by a Hollywood mogul whose company recently offered its workers $50 million in back pay to settle a wage-theft lawsuit.

Obama will be the featured guest at a $100,000 per person fundraiser for the Hillary Victory Fund. The event is hosted by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

On October 17, DreamWorks offered $50 million to settle a class-action suit brought by animators alleging that the company conspired with other tech firms and film studios to keep labor costs down. The settlement offer, which was first reported by Cartoon Brew, is approximately 40 percent of the $127 million that former DreamWorks workers claim to have lost to wage theft.

DreamWorks did not respond to a request for comment. An attorney representing the company declined comment.

The settlement offer comes two years after workers launched the lawsuit to recover wages they said were lost because of non-poaching agreements between some of the nation's top animation firms.

Court documents obtained by Pando Daily in 2014 revealed that executives at DreamWorks and Pixar exchanged emails tied to the price-fixing scandal for several years before the Department of Justice launched an investigation into the practice in 2009. The agency announced in 2010 that it had settled anti-trust charges against six tech companies, including Pixar. DreamWorks' role in the practice, if any, was not noted in the press release.

Clinton has made wage theft and protecting workers' rights a centerpiece of her campaign against billionaire Donald Trump. Her campaign website pledges to "protect workers from exploitation, including employer misclassification, wage theft, and other forms of exploitation." She pledged to imprison employers guilty of wage theft during a 2015 Labor Day speech.

"We're going to go back to enforcing labor laws. I'm going to make sure that some employers go to jail for wage theft and all the other abuses they engage in," she said.

A Clinton campaign spokesman did not return a request for comment about the DreamWorks wage theft suit.

Katzenberg was one of the top individual political contributors of the 2016 cycle even before hosting the fundraiser, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He has spent more than $2 million on the election, with all of that money going to Democrats. He has been even more effective at fundraising on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

An April fundraising event he co-hosted with George Clooney netted the Clinton camp $15 million. Members of the Clinton family have attended fundraisers hosted by Katzenberg in the closing months of the campaign. Bill Clinton attended a September fundraiser after Hillary was forced to cancel during her bout with pneumonia. Hillary Clinton managed to attend a fundraiser on October 13 that charged attendees between $32,000 and $100,000.

Katzenberg's fundraising haul for Hillary pales in comparison to his past fundraising for President Obama. Katzenberg raised or contributed more than $30 million for the 2012 presidential election, hosting a $15 million Hollywood fundraiser that was one of the most lucrative of that election cycle. He bundled at least $500,000 for Obama's campaign in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

President Obama's Department of Justice approved NBCUniversal's controversial $4 billion acquisition of DreamWorks in June.

The settlement agreement must be approved by a federal district court. The motion requests a court date on January 19, 2017 to review the terms of the offer.