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Judge Rejects Settlement of Lip-Synching Lawsuit

August 12, 1991

CHICAGO (AP) _ A judge on Monday rejected a proposed settlement of a lawsuit against Arista Records over the lip-synching duo Milli Vanilli, calling it unfair because consumers would have to buy more products to get a refund.

The Los Angeles-based record company had offered to refund $3 on future music purchases to anyone who bought a Milli Vanilli compact disc, or $2 for a tape or record or $1 for a single. Arista said the deal would have cost them $25 million or more.

″We were disappointed in the judge’s decision,″ said Aaron Robinson, an Arista attorney. ″We didn’t think the agreement called for the members of the class-action to necessarily purchase additional records to receive a rebate. They could have used a receipt from anyone else that may have bought an album produced by Arista Records.″

At least 26 lawsuits have been filed claiming Arista defrauded fans by implying that Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan sang on the best-selling album ″Girl You Know It’s True.″

Pilatus and Morvan revealed last year they did nothing more than dance, lip-synch and pose for pictures. The pair returned a 1990 Best New Artist Grammy they won for the album.

The Chicago lawsuit was the first to reach a possible settlement, and could have applied to anyone who bought one of the more than 10 million copies of the album.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said at previous hearings they agreed to the settlement because it would be hard to prove at trial that consumers were defrauded. But they said Monday they didn’t believe the settlement offer was fair.

″We’re pleased by this decision,″ said lawyer Jonathan Nachsin. ″We will represent the Milli Vanilli victims aggressively to get a meaningful remedy from the courts.″

Arista attorneys contend the packaging and promotion of Milli Vanilli did not mislead the public. They said that although pictures of Pilatus and Morvan were on the album’s packaging, and the two mouthed the words of the songs in videos and concerts, such promotion didn’t give the impression the two sang the recorded songs.

Most packaging for the album credited vocals to ″Fab and Rob,″ but the credit often wasn’t visible on the outside package, according to the attorneys.

Arista had insisted on the additional purchase, contending many customers might otherwise refuse to buy its recordings after the Milli Vanilli scandal. They also expressed concern they would be hurt by fraudulent claims from people seeking refunds who never bought a Milli Vanilli album.

The settlement would have required customers to mail in the bar-code symbol from a Milli Vanilli recording, plus a receipt for a new purchase.

People who purchased tickets for Milli Vanilli concerts could have sent in a ticket stub with a receipt for new Arista purchases to receive a rebate of 5 percent of the ticket’s cost.

Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas O’Brien set another hearing date for Sept. 11 to give the parties time to work out a new settlement.

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