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Actor James Franco has agreed to pay $2.2 million dollars to settle a pair of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and fraud in relation to his now-defunct acting school.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed their suit in 2019 in Los Angeles County Superior Court. In it, they allege that Franco and his business partners “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects,” The New York Times reported at the time.
The lawsuit alleged that these actions “led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class.”
The suit further alleged that young female actors “were routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry.” The two plaintiffs claim that they themselves were both subjected to sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots.
While Franco's attorney Michael Plonsker called the suit “ill-informed” in 2019, according to Fox News, Franco is has now agreed to settle. Of the $2.2 million in settlement money, $894,000 is expected to settle the sexual exploitation claims. The $1,341,000 would further settle fraud claims from about 1,500 former students that were part of a second lawsuit, the New York Times reports.
Franco did not admit any wrongdoing in the proposed settlement. His business partners Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis had also been named in the suits.
A joint statement from both the plaintiffs and the defendants reads, “While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood,” according to the New York Times.
Franco was the subject of similar allegations in 2018, when five women, four of whom were former acting students (and one of whom was Tither-Kaplan), accused him of abusing his power. Four years earlier, Franco was under fire after screenshots emerged online suggesting that he tried to arrange a date with a 17-year-old female fan via Instagram, E! News reported at the time.
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