Legally Lovin’ It: McDonald’s Defeats Byron Allen’s $100M Ad-Spending Suit; Mogul Plans Appeal

Byron Allen is not having what you would call a legal Happy Meal right now.

The publicized bidder for Paramount Global has been handed his lunch so to speak by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in his $100 million lawsuit against McDonald’s for allegedly not keeping promises to dramatically increase advertising with Black-owned media companies.

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Facing discrimination claims, the home of the Big Mac in May 2021 unveiled a self-described “four-year plan” to pump up its national media spending with said Black-owned companies from 2% to 5%. Having put together a plan to help facilitate that spending, Allen’s Weather Group, LLC and Plaintiff Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc soon came to the conclusion that McDonald’s was only interested in press releases, not putting its money where its mouth was.

Then Allen’s lawyer hit McDonald’s with a fraud suit and the legal filings started flying back and forth. Late last week, Judge Mel Red Recana decided McDonald’s motion to strike the initial complaint under the Golden State’s anti-SLAPP statute was applicable and that the company did not engage in a “false promise,” as the plaintiffs claim.

As the judge noted in the February 2 order:

The court finds Plaintiffs’ evidence fail to make a prima facie showing of Defendant’s nonperformance or intent not to perform at the time the alleged promise was made. The May 20, 2021 press release states, in relevant part, that Defendant is “accelerating the allocation of advertising dollars to diverse-owned media companies, production houses and content creators. McDonald’s total investment in diverse-owned partners … will more than double, moving from 4% to 10% of national advertising spend between 2021 and 2024. Spend with Black-owned properties, specifically, will increase from 2% to 5% of national advertising spend over this time period.” As Defendant points out, this action was filed before 2024 and this year just begun and has not passed. It is unclear how Plaintiffs can make a prima facie showing of Defendant’s nonperformance when its deadline period has not even passed.

With an eye on the calendar and the checkbook, the anti-SLAPP strike order goes on to say:

Defendant still has about 11 months remaining in this year to perform on its promise and commit to spending the necessary amount with Black Owned Media. It is purely speculative to conclude Defendant will not perform on its promise even if Defendant has not yet committed the amount needed in spending. The court notes that Defendant’s Vice President of U.S. Customer Engagement, Caleb Pearson, attests Defendant plans to spend in 2024 five percent of its national advertising budget with Black-owned media companies, production houses, and content creators.

McDonald’s decidedly did not take a low-key reaction to its court win.

“The court’s decision serves as confirmation of what we’ve said all along: this was just another frivolous lawsuit brought by Byron Allen as part of his smear campaign against McDonald’s,” the company said today.

“The court dealt Mr. Allen a crushing blow by dismissing this case for good, ruling that he failed to show that his claims had even ‘minimal merit,’ and the loss requires Mr. Allen to pay McDonald’s legal fees,” they added. “McDonald’s long ago made clear that we would not allow Mr. Allen to perpetuate false narratives at our expense or succumb to his extortionist tactics. Moving forward, we will continue to collaborate with diverse-owned partners and remain committed to advancing inclusion and diversity efforts.”

For its part, Allen’s team are already moving on to the next phase of this suit, they say.

“We disagree with the decision,” plaintiffs attorney Louis “Skip” Miller said in a statement to Deadline. “The California legislature enacted a law, Civil Code [Section] 1711, prohibiting companies from making false statements to the public,” the Miller Barondess LLP partner added. “This lawsuit seeks to uphold that law. We’re going to appeal this decision. It in no way affects Allen Media’s lawsuit pending in federal court for racial discrimination in contracting for advertising. That lawsuit against McDonald’s is alive and well — and is headed for trial.”

As Miller notes, this is one of two legal actions Allen has against the Golden Arches. First filed in May 2022, Allen’s $10 billion racial-stereotyping suit against McDonald’s is still before the courts here in Los Angeles.

Which means by the time all of this is resolved, McDonald’s will have likely revived the Hamburglar once again, or Allen may have bought Paramount Global for $30 billion.

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