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Second Woman Sues Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records Over Sexual Assault Claims

Nearly a week after a woman sued Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records claiming the record executive sexually assaulted her over 30 years ago, a second woman has come forward alleging that Ertegun assaulted her while she was an employee at the label, and that Atlantic enabled his behavior.

Dorothy Carvello, who served as Ertegun’s assistant before becoming Atlantic’s first female A&R executive in the early 1990s, claimed in a lawsuit filed on Sunday that Ertegun physically and sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions both when she was an Atlantic employee and years later.

This isn’t the first time Carvello, who has since became a shareholder activist and advocate against sexual misconduct, has brought her claims against Ertegun to the public; she detailed many of the same allegations in her 2017 book Anything for A Hit. Earlier this year, Carvello used a little-known Delaware law to request Warner Music Group disclose information regarding non-disclosure agreements the company initiated with employees over sexual misconduct claims. She also launched the Face The Music Now foundation, a non-profit that aims to bring resources to survivors of sexual assault in the music industry.

In the lawsuit, Carvello paints the Warner Music Group of her era as a toxic workplace environment rife with sexual misconduct. Some executives, she claims, kept sex toys lying around to decorate their offices, while others allegedly openly carried pornography with them. Carvello alleged that Ertegun sexually harassed and assaulted her multiple times from the late 1980s until she left Atlantic in 1990.

She claimed that during her first week on the job, she walked in on Ertegun receiving oral sex from a woman when she was trying to get him to sign paperwork. She said that Ertegun didn’t stop the act but rather had Carvello walk over to him mid-fellatio so he could sign the documents. She also says Ertegun had directed her to wash dirty sex toys on other occasions. Carvello alleged it was a common occurrence for women to send blackmail letters to the office that included photos of Ertegun naked, and she and Ertegun developed a system in which she’d get the photos to another Atlantic executive who would handle payoffs and NDAs for the women.

Carvello also alleged more direct and violent instances of misconduct from Ertegun. At a 1988 concert, Ertegun allegedly “forced his hand between Carvello’s legs” and grabbed her genitals. Ertegun allegedly exposed Carvello’s vagina to everyone at the club where the incident would’ve occurred. He also groped her breasts, the suit claims, and Carvello claims she begged other Atlantic employees to help make Ertegun stop — including record executive Jason Flom (a co-defendant in this suit) — but says everyone laughed. Carvello claims Ertegun continued to grope her breasts and genitals during a helicopter ride after the show. She detailed a similar story where Ertegun allegedly forcibly grabbed her genitals at a Clive Davis Grammy party at the Beverly Hills hotel in 1998.

Beyond sexual assault, Carvello alleged that Ertegun had physically assaulted her as well, claiming that Ertegun had broken her arm out of anger over a sub-par performance from a band Carvello had signed. Following the incident, Carvello claims she wore long sleeves to the office to hide her bruises. She further alleged that she brought the issue up with WMG’s former CEO Doug Morris, another co-defendant in the suit, but Morris allegedly told her, “What do you want me to do about it?”

Carvello is the second woman to accuse Ertegun of sexual assault within the past two weeks. Last week, Jan Roeg, a former talent scout who used to work with Atlantic, claimed Ertegun sexually assaulted her in the 1980s and Nineties, also alleging that Atlantic enabled his behavior. While Roeg’s lawsuit only listed Ertegun’s estate and Atlantic Records as defendants, Carvello’s also names Atlantic’s parent company Warner Music Group along with WMG’s Morris and Flom.

Morris and Flom did not immediately reply to requests for comment. A lawyer representing Ertegun’s widow Maria Banu Ertegun referred Rolling Stone to a previous statement that noted that “any claim against Mrs. Ertegun is meritless and will be be vigorously defended on her behalf.”

WMG has faced multiple changes of ownership since Carvello’s time at Atlantic Records. When approached for comment, WMG referred to the statement it supplied last week after Roeg filed her lawsuit. “We are speaking with people who were there at the time, taking into consideration that many key individuals are deceased or into their 80s and 90s,” a WMG spokesperson said. “To ensure a safe, equitable, and inclusive working environment, we have a comprehensive Code of Conduct, and mandatory workplace training, to which all of our employees must adhere.”

Morris, Carvello alleges in the suit, never acted despite being aware of Ertegun’s alleged behavior, and himself sexually harassed Carvello daily by “forcibly kissing” her face each morning. An incident with Flom cost Carvello her job, she alleged. In 1990, Flom allegedly asked Carvello to sit on his lap during a meeting with other Atlantic colleagues. She refused, and claimed that she wrote a letter to Morris noting that she was, as she wrote in the suit, “tired of this juvenile behavior by all the men at Atlantic Records.” The next day, she alleged, Morris and Ertegun fired her for bringing forward the complaint.

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Carvello’s lawsuit is the second significant one in the music industry since New York enacted the Adult Survivors Act in November. The ASA established a one-year period in which survivors could bring forward lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct that would have otherwise gone beyond the statute of limitations. 

“I am extremely grateful to the state of New York for passing this law, making it possible for survivors like me to seek justice against their abusers,” Carvello said in a statement. “I’m dedicated to making the music industry a safer place, especially for women. While I cannot change the past and what these men did or enabled, I can help build a better future, and I look forward to my day in court.”

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