Kevin Spacey must pay “House of Cards” producer MRC nearly $31 million for alleged sexual misconduct behind the scenes of the Netflix show, a judge ruled Thursday, saying it was not a “close case.”
Spacey, now 63, played Frank Underwood on “House of Cards” and was cut from the Netflix series after allegations surfaced of him sexually preying on young men. The accusations, which included that he allegedly groped a production assistant, caused MRC to conduct an investigation and ultimately terminate his acting and producing contracts.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana confirmed an award handed down previously by an arbitrator in October 2020 in MRC's favor consisting of some $29.5 million in damages and the remainder in costs and fees.
The arbitrator found that Spacey's conduct constituted a material breach of his acting and executive producing agreements. Even in a close case, the arbitrator's award must stand, Recana wrote in his 14-page ruling.
"Here, (Spacey) fails to demonstrate that this is even a close case," the judge said.
The judge noted that a November 2017 article on CNN.com contained allegations that Spacey, now 63, engaged in a pattern of sexually predatory behavior directed at young crew members on the set of “House of Cards” and that once MRC became aware of the accusations, it suspended the actor, investigated, wrote Spacey out of the show's final season and ended his acting and executive producing contracts.
Spacey attorney Jonathan E. Phillips argued that the award should be vacated, alleging the arbitrator exceeded the scope of his powers when he considered external evidence in deciding damages.
The arbitrator concluded that Spacey breached the agreements through his interactions with five specific crew members, who only came forward as part of MRC's solicitation of allegations against Spacey, including the internal investigation MRC initiated only after Netflix made the decision to exclude Spacey from season six, Phillips and Spacey's other attorneys further alleged in their new court papers.
While Spacey disagrees with the arbitrator's factual findings and maintains that he did not sexually harass anyone, he understands and accepts that the arbitrator's findings on that issue “are entitled to deference," Spacey's lawyers stated in their court papers.
"However, because the arbitrator committed -- namely, the damages awarded to (MRC) are not rationally related to the specific breaches found by the arbitrator -- (Spacey) is entitled to an order from this court vacating the award," according to Spacey's attorneys' court papers.
But Recana wrote that he was "not compelled to infer that the arbitrator's award was not based on the breach of the parties' agreements or that it was based on an (external) source."