Hipgnosis Songs Group CEO Kenny MacPherson has been accused of sexual assault by a former colleague from his time working at Chrysalis in the mid-2000s. The allegations have been made in a new lawsuit filed with the courts in LA.
The plaintiff, Sara Lewis, says that working in the Chrysalis A&R department was her dream job, but that - because of the sexual harassment and abuse she endured - the experience was "confusing, and devastating in every sense of the word".
A legal representative for MacPherson has denied the claims made in the lawsuit, telling Rolling Stone: “On behalf of my client Mr MacPherson, we vehemently deny all allegations made against Mr MacPherson in Ms Lewis’ unverified complaint filed earlier today".
MacPherson joined Hipgnosis after it acquired the US music publishing firm he co-founded, Big Deal Music. Hipgnosis Songs Group was created via that acquisition, described by the wider Hipgnosis group as "the home for our song creation and song administration activities".
Prior to founding Big Deal, MacPherson had an A&R role in the US division of the Chrysalis music publishing company.
According to Rolling Stone, in her lawsuit, Lewis claims that MacPherson began grooming and sexually harassing her shortly after she started working at Chrysalis, with things then escalating during a work trip to Vancouver in 2004.
She alleges that, on that trip, MacPherson "invited himself" into her hotel room, “leaned over her, placed his hands on her thigh, and confessed that he loved her and could no longer control his feelings".
She stressed that she did not have similar feelings towards him. He then left her hotel room but, she claims, after that MacPherson’s conduct in the work-place worsened.
Among other things, the lawsuit says, MacPherson would corner her in the office, call her to discuss issues with his marriage, try to kiss her, and, “at work lunches and dinners, he positioned himself next to her at the table, visibly groping her legs and even her vagina”.
This had a significant impact on Lewis’s mental health, the lawsuit notes. Then, it's alleged, in 2005 - on another work trip - MacPherson sexually assaulted Lewis in her hotel room.
With no HR department at Chrysalis with which to file a formal complaint, Lewis says she reported MacPherson's conduct to her direct supervisor Jamie Cerreta. He was a long-time colleague of MacPherson and subsequently co-founded Big Deal Music.
After she made that complaint, Cerreta “did nothing and never mentioned the topic again". But, subsequently, MacPherson began to stonewall her, making it impossible to do her job. She eventually quit the music business.
BMG is also named as a defendant on the lawsuit, because it acquired the Chrysalis publishing company at the end of 2010. Although the alleged events described in legal filing happened in the mid-2000s, before the current iteration of BMG even existed.
It said in a statement last night: “BMG stands solidly against all forms of discrimination and abuse and we are shocked and dismayed by the allegations made by Sara Lewis. As a point of fact, BMG did not exist until October 1, 2008, years after the alleged events had taken place, and did not acquire Chrysalis until years later in 2011".
Lewis is able to file a new lawsuit relating to alleged sexual abuse in the mid-2000s - even though the statute of limitations for such claims in California is usually ten years - because of the state's Sexual Abuse And Cover-Up Accountability Act.
That legislation provides a one year window in which legal claims relating to historic sexual abuse can be filed where there is an entity that has some responsibility for any damages. It is similar to the Adult Survivors Act in New York state that led to lawsuits being filed in relation to allegations of sexual assault against late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.
Lewis notes that some people will question why she took so long to file legal proceedings in relation to her allegations against MacPherson.
She says: “You almost snicker because the typical thought in a lot of these stories is ‘she came forward so many years after being silent'. And largely, I’m beginning to find out many of us were not silent. I told people … and collectively everybody turned a blind eye because - I can’t speak for them - but I imagine it’s because they were concerned for their own situation".