In August, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) made headlines when it was revealed that Phillip Jack Brooks (a/k/a CM Punk) would need to cover half of the attorney’s fees and costs incurred in complying with subpoena. The former wrestler’s obligation to cover the final bill ended up at over $120,000 - a pricetag which Brooks’ counsel have vigorously challenged.
Last month, WWE was served with another subpoena in Connecticut court regarding a completely different matter. Again, the company was requested to submit of certain documents and appear for a deposition. According to court filings, WWE has balked at the requests as being “abusive, harassing, overboard, and would cause WWE undue or unreasonable burden or expense.” WWE replied that a “conservative estimate” for complying with the subpoena would cost a stunning “$247,500 to $483,000”.
Still, the latest person to sue WWE for compliance of a subpoena was not a former professional wrestler or an ex-employee. The movant was Samantha Rotunda. In April 2017, she filed for divorce from WWE star Windham Rotunda (Bray Wyatt). Her subpoena stemmed from her divorce proceedings in Florida’s Hernando County Circuit Court.
On August 14, Samantha Rotunda requested that the WWE to produce certain documents related to her husband’s “income and earning capacity” and appear for a October deposition. The brief filed noted that these documents would be relevant to issues around alimony and child support.
Rotunda’s list of requested documents from WWE covering the period of “February 2011 to present” included:
- Tax Returns
- FInancial Statements
- Banking Information
- Loan Applications
- Credit Cards
- Pension Plans
- Real Estate
- Personal Property
- Mortgages and Notes
- Fictitious Names
- Partnership and Joint Venture Agreements
- Employment Records/Contracts
- Fringe Benefits
- Disability Pension
- Powers of Attorney
- Safe Deposit Boxes
(The list goes on for 89 different points.)
WWE’s counsel responded to Rotunda’s request on August 29 with a general objection to the Subpoena. However, WWE did agree to produce Bray’s “1099s, booking contracts and some licensing contracts subject to the objections”. Though, WWE also provided an affidavit that the “estimated costs of compliance with the subpoena” would be “somewhere between $247,500 to $483,000” since “specially-trained review attorneys” would need to “collect, process and review the WWE’s electronically-stored email information”.
On September 22, 2017, a “Memorandum of law in support of motion to compel compliance with subpoena” was filed by Samantha Rotunda’s attorneys in the Superior Court of Stamford, Connecticut.The memo intends to show that WWE is acting in “bad faith” and instead is attempting to to “intimidate an individual litigant from conducting discovery and learning her husband’s true financial picture”. Ms. Rotunda insists that she’s trying to gauge the “intellect property, merchandising, licensing, payments and royalties” related to the “various income streams to Mr. Rotunda as a result of his WWE activities.”
In the end, it’s likely that WWE will supply Ms. Rounda with some of the documentation that she has requested (such as 1099 tax returns or copies of Bray’s booking contracts). However, her soup-to-nuts request may go unfilled. WWE appears willing to maintain their tough litigious stance and seems ready to fight against any time-consuming, expansive and costly subpoenas and depositions. While WWE may be forced to comply with the subpoena, it’s very possible that WWE will succeed in burdening the litigant with a large portion of the supposed cost.
Inquisitive minds can follow the lawsuit developments for case FST-CV17-6033367-S online.
While CEO Vince McMahon made bombastic claims that he’s never lost a lawsuit, the reality is much murkier. As detailed on a recent episode of Wrestlenomics Radio, there’s many examples where WWE has lost litigation including the Jesse Ventura Royalties case, the Charles Austin injury suit, the trademark case over initials WWF with the World Wildlife Foundation and so forth.