Posted Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:11am PDT by Daniel Kreps in Amplifier
Lady Gaga has once again found herself the center of controversy, but this time it has nothing to do with a meat-based outfit or accusations of Madonna worship. Instead, Gaga has been hit with a class action lawsuit claiming that the singer improperly profited from the "We Pray For Japan" bracelets that she sold through her official website to raise funds for Japanese earthquake victims,NBCDFW.com reports. All proceeds from the sale of the $5 bracelets were supposed to go directly to Japan relief efforts; however, a law firm accuses Gaga and her team of adding unnecessary tax and overcharging for shipping to profit from the charity items.
The class action suit, filed by Detroit's 1-800-LAW-FIRM, arrives just as Lady Gaga was in Tokyo this Saturday to perform at the MTV Video Music Aid Japan show, which also raised relief funds for the tsunami-ravaged nation. In the suit, Gaga is accused of violating federal racketeering laws and consumer protection laws by not only charging tax on a charity item and inflating shipping costs, but by also including whatever money the pop star's team pocketed from the bracelet sales as part of their donation fee to artificially inflate the figures. The firm has posted the complaint and this video (which, frankly, doesn't do a lot to enhance the credibility of a law firm branded with an 800 number by inviting viewers to follow a #gagascam hashtag on Twitter) attempting to explain the "Shady Gaga" suit on its website:
"When we tried to communicate with the defendants in this lawsuit, all we got was, 'well, some of the money is being retained, but we don't really know how much,'" 1-800 -LAW-FIRM's Alyson Olivertold My Fox Detroit. Gaga is within her rights to keep some of the money from the bracelets; all proceeds from their sales went to helping Japan, but the production of the bracelets wasn't going to pay for itself, and it's unfair for Gaga to assume that cost herself. However, if it's found that she did actually profit of the sale of the charity bracelets, then that's a major PR (and potentially legal) problem waiting to happen. When contacted by The Amp, Gaga's reps had no comment on the allegations.
The class action lawsuit potentially casts a shadow on Lady Gaga's Japanese relief efforts, which is a shame since Gaga has gone above and beyond the call of duty in lending support to the country. She's spent the last week in Tokyo and has served as a one-woman tourism bureau by using her Twitter account to encourage fans to visit the country. In addition to the bracelets and the MTV performance, she's also designed a Uniqlo t-shirt to raise money for tsunami relief.
Gaga's not the only concerned musician who's been suspected of personally profiting from charity funds: Last year, Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Foundation was accused of questionable accounting practices in handling millions of dollars in relief donations for a post-earthquake Haiti, accusations he called "baseless attacks." But unlike the current Gaga situation, no class action lawsuit was filed, nor self-promotional YouTube video filmed.