Soundgarden members file countersuit against Vicky Cornell over 2019 concert

Posted by on May 8, 2020


Soundgarden’s remaining members have filed a countersuit against Vicky Cornell with new claims over what happened to money raised from a January 2019 tribute show for late frontman Chris Cornell.

Filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, Miami by members Kim Thayil, Matt  Cameron and Ben Shepherd, the suit (a copy of which was obtained by Rolling Stone) alleges that the band had an oral agreement with Vicky that they would perform for free at the “I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell” concert (the “Cornell Concert”) knowing that proceeds from it would go to benefit The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. 

However, the band believes they were misled, claiming that more than a year out from the show that “recipient(s) of the revenue” from the show “have not been identified.” Says the suit

“Vicky Cornell has failed to adequately respond to Counter-Plaintiffs’ formal and informal inquiries about how these revenues were used and expended. In a Declaration in Support of her Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss filed in this action, Vicky Cornell states that $643,000 of the concert revenue was donated to the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medial Research Foundation. But Counter-Defendants have not identified the whereabouts or disposition of the remaining revenue. Counter-Defendants have so far refused to respond to inquiries relating to the Cornell Concert, including failing to provide any substantive interrogatory responses or document productions in response to discovery propounded by SOUNDGARDEN in this action relating to the Cornell Foundation and the Cornell Concert. Moreover, until shortly before this filing when the Cornell Foundation released its 2018 Form 990 (almost a year late), the Cornell Foundation had not publicly released any information detailing its financial position since 2017. Finally, as of the date of these Counterclaims, the Cornell Foundation’s website still appears not to have been updated since 2017. A thorough accounting is required because Vicky Cornell promised SOUNDGARDEN that no portion of the revenue generated from the Cornell Concert would be used for anything other than charitable purposes as consideration to induce SOUNDGARDEN to play at the Cornell Concert.”

“Vicky Cornell did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes, but rather for personal purposes for herself and her family,” the band alleges in the suit. They claim her “representation was false, or exhibited recklessness and negligence as to its truth or falsity, for the purpose and intent of inducing Soundgarden into agreeing to perform at the Cornell Concert without compensation.”

The suit claims that the band “suffered damages including lost reasonable compensation for the Cornell Concert and reputational harm.”

In addition to the concert claims, the suit also covers Vicky’s alleged control over the band’s social media accounts and website. According to the suit, “Without Band permission, Vicky Cornell, identifying herself as “Soundgarden,” has removed fan comments and has herself posted images and comments to publicly-accessible Band Social Media pages. Some of those postings by Vicky Cornell are intended to denigrate the Band and the Surviving Band Members.” Furthermore, the band claims that Vicky’s actions and lack of maintenance on the sites “has caused direct injury to Soundgarden including reputational harm and loss of income including on the basis that fans have been dissuaded from purchasing merchandise on the Soundgarden official website due to doubts about the recipient of associated revenue.”

Vicky Cornell initially sued the remaining members of Soundgarden in December 2019, claiming that the band was withholding royalties to Chris’ estate over access to seven unreleased recordings she said were the sole property of her late husband. The band then filed a suit of their own, denying her claims and stating that the band had been working on the unreleased tracks together as early as 2014 and as late as April 2017, just before they went out on tour. 

The previous allegations are also addressed in the countersuit, stating “The Complaint is an offensive recitation of false allegations and accusations. Soundgarden categorically denies every material contention lobbed by Vicky Cornell, who filed her Complaint — rashly and without good cause — with the true purpose of extorting Soundgarden into conceding rights to which she is not legally entitled, and of coercing Soundgarden to prematurely distribute Soundgarden funds to her.” The band called her legal actions “lamentable, preventable, and spurious,” and will be seeking “compensatory and general damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”

Vicky and her lawyer Marty Singer responded to the new allegations, calling them “salacious, scurrilous, and vicious.” Said Singer, “Their transparently desperate counterclaims … do not change the fact that they are the ones who have improperly asserted ownership of vocal recordings that were created solely by Chris and that they are the ones who have unlawfully withheld substantial sums of money from Chris’ widow and children.”

“I Am the Highway” was Soundgarden’s first show together since the May 2017 suicide death of Chris Cornell.


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