LOS ANGELES (CN) - Bank of America illegally allowed withdrawals from "Coogan accounts" for child entertainers, a class action claims in Superior Court.
California's Coogan law is named after child star Jackie Coogan, who sued his mother as an adult after he found out she had spent the millions he made during the silent film era. Of the $4 million he earned as a child actor, Coogan recovered only $126,000. He went on to play Uncle Fester on the television version of "The Addams Family."
The Coogan Law was enacted in 1939, but it was ineffective in protecting minor actors' earnings until several loopholes were closed in 2000.
Under its present form, minors' earnings from their entertainment work are property of the child, with parents acting as fiduciaries until their children are old enough to control their own money.
In the new complaint, trustees for two minor plaintiffs claim Bank of America bank allowed money to be taken from Coogan accounts before the account holders turned 18.
"Plaintiffs bring this class action on behalf of all similarly situated current and former customers of Bank of America who maintain or have maintained Coogan Trust Accounts with defendants from which defendants have made or allowed withdrawals, including but not limited to withdrawals for monthly service fees, without court approval, at any time in the four years preceding the filing of this action to the present," the complaint states.
"(W)hen an unemancipated minor is paid for performing artistic or creative services, 15 percent of the minor's gross earnings must be set aside by the minor's employer in trust and placed in an account to be preserved for the benefit of the minor. Prior to the time the minor turns 18 years old or becomes emancipated, no withdrawals can be made from the account without written order of the Superior Court," the complaint states.
More than 5,000 people held Coogan Accounts that were affected by the withdrawals, according to the complaint.
Named plaintiffs are Jasmine Phillips aka Jasmine Gonzales, as trustee for Alex Gonzales, and Anesha Coleman as trustee for Jadon Monroe.
Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson declined to comment, telling Courthouse News that the company is reviewing the complaint.
The class seeks compensatory damages for unfair business practices, and an injunction.
It is represented by David Markun, with Markun Zusman & Compton, of Pacific Palisades.