Boy Band Why Don't We Accuses Management of "Abuse" and "Malnourishment"

The members of boy band Why Don't We have made some shocking accusations against a manager following counter-lawsuits between him and a co-manager.

By Corinne Heller Sep 10, 2021 8:31 PMTags
Watch: Why Don't We Shares the Soundtrack to Their Lives: My Music Moments

U.S. boy band Why Don't We is accusing one of its managers for allegedly mistreating the band members as teens, saying he allegedly kept them prisoner and restricted their food to the point that some developed eating disorders.

On Thursday, Sept. 9, the group, which formed in 2016 and is made up of Jack Avery, Corbyn Besson, Zach Herron, Jonah Marais and Daniel Seavey, released a scathing statement on Instagram.

"Without a doubt, publicly sharing our truth makes us feel more vulnerable," they said. "However, it is a step we are forced to take to provide the world with access to the harsh 'behind the scenes' that we endured as young teens where verbal abuse, malnourishment, and ultimate control were positioned as the price of success."

The group members, who are now in their 20s, said that when they started their career as a band between ages 15 and 18 years old, they "were initially excited to all be living together in the same house, working together on what we loved most, our music." They added, "Little did we know that we would eventually become prisoners in the 'Why Don't We compound' under the supervision of one of our managers at Signature Entertainment Partners."

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Without naming the individual, WDW continued, "He would not only live with us during the day, but controlled us 24/7, setting an alarm that would go off if any door or window was opened. Needless to say, we were not given the security code to the alarm, essentially making us hostages in our own home. Food was restricted to the point that some band members developed eating disorders. We had to sneak food in and hide it in our dresser."

The group members also stated that they "were verbally berated almost every day and alienated from our friends and families," adding, "We had no support system except for each other and were made to believe that this was 'normal,' that every artist had to pay their dues. Unfortunately, this need for extreme dominance has played out for the duration of our careers in a variety of ways that have not only inflicted physical and mental, but also extreme financial harm to us."

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Lawyers for Signature Entertainment, an LLC managed by the band's co-manager David Loeffler, told E! News in a statement on Friday, Sept. 10, "Recent comments attributed to WDW members are untrue, hurtful, and apparently designed to be part of an ill-advised strategy to evade their obligations under these agreements."

WDW issued the statement soon after they petitioned the California Labor Commission to throw out its contract with Signature Entertainment for allegedly violating the Talent Agencies Act. Their Instagram post was also made amid an ongoing legal battle between Loeffler and his partner, Randy Phillips, who co-managed the band.

Last month, Loeffler fired Phillips from the investment company that controls Signature Entertainment, which effectively ended Phillips' management of the band, Billboard reported, adding that Loeffler later claimed the group refused to sign a new recording contract with Atlantic or perform unless Phillips was reinstated as manager.

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On Aug. 17, Loeffler sued Phillips and the five individual band members. In his lawsuit, filed in a Florida court and obtained by E! News, he alleged "breach of contract, anticipatory breach of contract and tortious interference with a business relationship."

"Signature has filed suit to preserve its rights under contracts that are legal, binding, and fully enforceable under Florida law," lawyers for the company told E! News in their statement. "These profit share agreements have been very beneficial for the individual members of WDW, and approximately $10 million has already been paid to the members of WDW under these agreements."

On Aug. 26, Philips countersued Loeffler in Los Angeles to try to remove him from the band's management team. In his lawsuit, also obtained by E! News, he detailed accusations about his former partner that are similar to those the band made in their recent statement.

In the complaint, Phillips claimed that at the start of the group's career, Loeffler subjected the band members, four of whom were minors at the time, "to cruel and unsafe conditions when Loeffler was living with them at a rental property that had been secured for them to develop music."

"Loeffler subjected the members to daily verbal abuse, screaming at them at the top of his lungs, sometimes for 10-20 minutes at a time, and threatening to end their careers if they did not follow his directions." the lawsuit stated. "Loeffler would monitor almost every movement they made, not allow them to go upstairs, and hardly allow them to leave the house."

The complaint continued, "Loeffler did not allow them to have friends or visitors, did not feed them properly, and each night set a house alarm, which they did not know the code to, to make sure they did not leave."

Phillips' attorney, Howard King, told E! News in statement in response to his client's lawsuit that "after years of mental and financial abuse at the hands of Dave Loeffler and his associates, Randy Phillips seeks to salvage a deteriorating relationship with rising stars Why Don't We...with the production companies co-owned by Phillips."

"Loeffler's mistreatment of these primary assets of the companies gravely endanger the survival of the companies," King continued. "For unknown motives, other than perhaps professional jealousy, Loeffler has attempted to interfere with Phillips [sic] role as primary manager of these artists."

WDW's lawyer, Alan Gutman, said in a separate statement to E! News, also in response to Phillips' lawsuit, that the group members "support Randy Phillips the same way he has supported us from the start of our careers."

In Thursday's Instagram Statement, the band said, "This is now playing out on the public stage in a continued attempt to weaponize our love for our music and our fans. We will no longer be silenced and we look forward to finally closing the chapter on this traumatic stage in our lives by turning the page to our truth."

—Reporting by Alli Rosenbloom