The Wild West of E-Sports Contracts and Agreements

The esports industry (also referred to as electronic sports, e-sports, or eSports) has taken off since the late 2000’s, and generally refers to organized, multiplayer video game competitions. The rise in popular live streaming services tailored to gaming, such as Twitch and Mixer, have only helped to catapult the esports industry into something that many have never quite seen before – including estimated audiences of 454 million viewers in 2019 and over $1 billion in revenue. Such growth within the esports and online gaming community has given rise to professional gamers. However, this acceleration of popularity and fame amongst these young players, combined with the utter newness of the esports industry, ultimately begs the question of how contracts and agreements among management are handled.

While many may be familiar with the popularity of the esports industry, they may be unaware it is functioning in a largely unregulated space. For instance, there is a lack of standardized contracts for professional players, no collective bargaining agreements, and no established standard working conditions. One player in particular who is quite familiar with this lack of regulation is professional Fortnite player, Turner ‘Tfue’ Tenney. Tenney recently found himself embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with his former esports team, Faze Clan. Tenney claimed a breach of contract occurred as well as unfair business practices during his time with Faze Clan.

In May of this year, Tenny’s lawyers filed a suit against Faze Clan arguing the Gamer Agreement or contract the parties agreed to back in April of 2018 was grossly oppressive, onerous, and one-sided in favor of Faze Clan. Amongst these claims, the suit alleges the Gamer Agreement contains unlawful exclusivity provisions and is in violation of California’s current agency laws, and that Faze Clan breached its fiduciary obligations owed to Tenny by unreasonably rejecting sponsorship deals. Tenney is seeking for the Gamer Agreement to be rendered void and unenforceable, and that Faze Clan should be required to disgorge and repay Tenney all the money he earned as a result of the Gamer Agreement.

The specifications within the suit detail Tenney’s complaints that the Gamer Agreement entitles Faze Clan to a finder’s fee of up to 80 percent of the revenue paid by third parties for Tenney’s gameplay. Additionally, it is alleged the Gamer Agreement contains certain anti-competitive provisions amounting to an unlawful restraint of trade. Specifically, the Gamer Agreement restricts Tenney to sponsorship deals exclusively sourced by Faze Clan and provides that Tenney cannot obtain his own deals without the prior written consent of Faze Clan.

Faze Clan have ultimately denied all allegations made by Tenney, and have released a public statement claiming it has not collected any of Tenney’s tournament winnings or non-esports related revenue. Faze Clan further states it has only received $60,000 in relation to the Gamer Agreement, while Tenney has made “millions” by association with the Faze Clan name. A key argument the team is expected to make is that Tenney voluntarily and lawfully signed the contract as an adult that he is now protesting.

Unfortunately, this will likely not be the only contract dispute case to emerge from the esports industry. While conventional professional athletes have a team of managers, agents, and even lawyers to protect their best interests, ensure proper pay, and a healthy work environment, this isn’t necessarily the norm for the esports world quite yet.

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

For the dedicated commercial litigation lawyers at Feldman & Feldman, there is no adversary too big. Our legal team passionately pursues each case with skill and tenacity, but without the overhead of a large law firm. Contact the experienced attorneys at Feldman & Feldman today.

Do The National Association of Realtors’ Rules Stifle Competition?

It’s no secret that commission plays a big role when it comes to working in the sales industry. Not so different from servers or bartenders receiving tips as the majority of their pay, a sales commission is the additional compensation one would receive for exceeding the minimum sales threshold. However, what happens when sales opportunities are avoided because the expected commission is lower than most? For the National Association of Realtors (NAR), this situation is all too familiar.

Keller Williams, the Austin-based residential real estate company, is facing backlash for its training policies. This has resulted in a class-action lawsuit challenging the commission structure on home sales brokered by members of NAR. The case itself revolves around whether or not NAR rules stifle competition by requiring listing agents to say up-front exactly how much of their sales commission will be shared with buyers’ agents.

The sellers who initially brought on the lawsuit argued agents actually avoid listing and/or showing certain properties that offer lower commissions, which can create an environment that stalls commission rates at around three percent for each cooperating agent. However, the NAR and the brokerages named in the litigation have asserted the defendants are mischaracterizing the rules.

Keller Williams is a defendant in the newly filed class-action lawsuit that consolidated previously filed litigation in Minnesota, along with suits filed by a half-dozen other plaintiffs. The class action suit goes into greater detail than the original complaint, citing the NAR training of real estate agents at Keller Williams University as evidence agents have less incentive to show homes with low commissions.

If a judge decides to strike down the standard practice of splitting commissions, it could have the potential to save a homeseller thousands of dollars in commissions by forcing more buyers’ agents to negotiate their pay or shift their fees to buyers. It would also result in cutting the earnings of real estate agents across the country and put more pressure on traditional brokerages.

The class action complaint includes a script allegedly used to train real estate agents dealing with a seller who wishes to reduce the buyer commission to save money. “When you reduce the commission, you reduce the incentive for that agent to bring a buyer to your house,” the agent in the script explains, according to court documents. “If an agent has 10 different houses, nine of which come with a 3 percent commission, one of which comes with 2.5 percent commission, which houses do you think they’re going to show?”

While NAR defends its commission structure in federal court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened its own investigation into real estate agent fees. In the investigation, the DOJ has demanded information from CoreLogic, a system that provides many real estate agents with platforms where they can share listings, known as multiple listing services. While the information in regards to whether or not multiple listing services prevent competition in the real estate agent fee structure has yet to be determined, it’s clear there is a long road ahead for the NAR.

Houston Commercial Litigation Attorneys

When a dispute arises, it can bring your entire business to a screeching halt. When this happens, your livelihood is in serious jeopardy. Business litigation is often very complex, making quick resolutions unlikely. For the dedicated commercial litigation lawyers at Feldman & Feldman, there is no adversary too big. We work closely with our clients to get them the best results. If you are facing any type of business dispute or commercial litigation, call Feldman & Feldman today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.