Britney Spears’ Dad Is Out Of The Conservatorship, But The Battle Over How He Spent Her Money Is Just Getting Started

It can be difficult to separate the authorized financial decisions from fraud, self-dealing, or any other type of misconduct. This is one of the real problems with giving so much power to someone.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Britney Spears 2018

One fan created a parody website named after Britney Spears' former business manager Lou Taylor in 2019 as the #FreeBritney movement gained momentum. The website was humorously titled "Your #1 source for gay demon exorcists." It featured articles that were republished from other websites, including one about Taylor calling Taylor a stalker. Taylor filed a lawsuit against Bryan Kuchar, claiming the 32-year old medical assistant was trying exploit Taylor's fame and goodwill to damage her reputation. Even though Spears was not a party to the lawsuit, nor was she criticized by the fansite. Jamie Spears, her father, authorized $153,759 from Taylor's estate to two Atlanta-based law firms. Court documents also indicate that an unspecified amount was paid to another firm that handled Taylor's cease-and-desist letters. In March 2020, Taylor and Kuchar reached a confidential settlement. It remains to be seen if Taylor should have paid the bill for Taylor. According to Taylor's recent statements, Taylor is grateful for the criticisms of the conservatorship and has been critical about her management. Spears stated earlier this year that my dad, anyone involved in this conservatorship, and my management played a major role in punishing I when I said, "No. Ma'am," to a judge. BuzzFeed News exposed abuses, neglect and death in the US guardianship sector. Check out our investigative series, "Beyond Britney". The dispute about whether Taylor's legal bills should have been covered by Spears' money is only a glimpse of the accounting problems that are likely to arise as Spears' legal team attempts to recover funds that they feel were misused or spent on legal services that did not benefit her. Mathew Rosengart, Spears' attorney, has hired lawyers who specialize in fiduciary or estate litigation. He also brought in an expert in money laundering and fraud who was previously part of Robert Muellers investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Rosengart said Britney Spears would sue if they find evidence that Jamie Spears took his daughters' money or engaged any other misconduct. Rosengart, who was speaking to #FreeBritney supporters downtown Los Angeles on September 29 stated that he and my firm were going to have a complete look at Jamie Spears's actions and those of his representatives. It's in progress and will continue until Britney is able to be rehabilitated.

Chris Pizzello / AP Rosengart talks to #FreeBritney supporters at the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, Sept. 29.

Spears conservatorship was terminated by Brenda Penny, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. This is just five months before her 40th birthday and less than five months after she publicly criticised the arrangement in an explosive public hearing. Penny will then decide whether to approve payments for the attorneys who represented Spears' father and Jodi Monty, the current conservator of Spears' personal affairs in the conservatorship. Britney Spears must pay both her attorney's fees and those of her conservators lawyers under state law. Jamie Spears' accounting report will be reviewed by the judge. It will detail how much money went in and out of his daughter's estate in 2019. Although much of the report has been redacted, documents filed in November 2020 by Sam Ingham (the singer's former court-appointed lawyer) show that Spears is raising concerns about Taylors payments and nearly $400,000 in transactions made to Taylors management company, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment. Tri Star earned a portion of Spears' gross income for years. It topped $100 millions during her Las Vegas residency. In 2019, however, the conservatorship ended the careers of the pop star. According to court documents, Jamie Spears approved a modification to Tri Stars' compensation arrangement in late 2017. He did so without notifying Taylor, her attorney or the court. A new $500,000 annual floor was added after Taylor complained about her company having lost $400,000 due the singers work break. Ingham stated that the payment was 260% more than what Tri Star would have received if it had not been for the new arrangement. According to documents, Jamie Spears also paid Tri Star $80,000 for accounting services before changing the company's compensation structure. Ingham stated that these radical arrangements were made by JAMES, without any legal obligation. There are no indications that JAMES questioned the legality of TRI STARs fee hike, tried to negotiate a better deal or requested additional details for time billing. Jamie Spears' attorneys stated that his decision to establish a new compensation floor was reasonable. Inghams' questions regarding the accounting services payment were not answered by them. Taylor suggested in an email dated November 12, 2019, that the $500,000 floor could also be applied for 2020, according to court documents. It is not clear if that actually happened. Jamie Spears has yet to file an accounting report for the year 2017. Tri Star and Taylor resigned from their roles as Britney's Spears managers in fall 2020. BuzzFeed News asked Taylor and her company for an attorney, but they did not answer.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Britney Spears fan holds a sign during the #FreeBritney Rally at Washington Square Park, Sept. 29, 2021 in New York City.

Rosengart was hired by Spears in July, when she was allowed to retain her own counsel. She also took aim at the legal fees her fathers have charged her over the past year and the salary Jamie Spears received as conservator. Vivian Thoreen, Jamie Spears' former attorney and her law firm Holland & Knight LLP requested that the estate pay more than $530,000 for media-related fees between October 2020 to June 2021. This is the period in which the New York Times Framing Britney Spears documentary sparked a series of public criticisms over Jamie Spears' continued control over her life, despite her successful music career. Thoreen stated in a July 2021 statement that they had to deal with inquiries and media coverage. Holland & Knights' primary goal was to protect Ms. Spears and her brand, image and Estate from any potential damage caused by inaccurate or false media and social media coverage. However, Thoreen stated that Holland & Knights was working to help Spears father and not Spears herself. The publicity surrounding the case was only negative of Knights and the conservatorship. In a September filing, Rosengart stated that fees paid to protect the reputation of a departing Conservator cannot be charged to the Conservatee or taken from their assets.

Nick Ut / AP Jamie Spears is the father of Britney Spears and he left the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on October 24, 2012.

Rosengart also questioned the scope and work of Thoreens, the law firm Jamie Spears hired in October 2020 to act as his litigation counsel. Freeman, Freeman and Smiley LLP represented him. Both legal firms assisted him in court filings to approve his legal fees. He was removed from conservatorship last month. BuzzFeed News reached out to Geraldine Wyle, Thoreen and Freeman's partner in the firm. Jamie Spears's new attorney did not reply to questions. Although Rosengart has promised to investigate Jamie Spears' actions since 2008 when the conservatorship was established, legal experts told BuzzFeed News that it might be difficult to recover money or get recourse for decisions made during the 11 years the court has approved accounting reports. A judge has not yet approved money spent in 2019 and 2020. Zoe BrennanKrohn, an ACLU staff attorney, stated that Britney's team is at disadvantage. According to Zoe Brennan-Krohn, a staff attorney for the ACLUs Disability Rights Program, Britney's team is at a disadvantage because her father was granted a lot of discretion. He also received 2.95% from the Femme Fatale 2011 tour receipts. BuzzFeed News was informed by legal experts that both compensation arrangements were approved. However, BuzzFeed News believes they present a conflict of interest. Jonathan Martinis, an attorney who spent many years helping people in guardianships and conservatorships get their rights back, stated that he is charged with looking out for her health. He was motivated by a financial gain to get her on stage.

Christopher Polk / Getty images for iHeartMedia Spears performs in Las Vegas at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival.