EXCLUSIVE: Netflix’s My Unorthodox Life is headed into some unorthodox territory with a multimillion-dollar fraud lawsuit filed Friday by the unscripted series’ star Julia Haart against her estranged husband and co-star.
Seeking more than $257 million in damages to be determined at trial, Haart’s lawyers accused Silvio Scaglia of being “a liar and a fraud” in a complaint filed in New York State court. Detailing a seemingly elaborate sleight of hand, ex-Elite World Group boss Haart claims that Scaglia tossed a spanner in the works of the couple’s ongoing divorce by scamming her out of stock and big bucks from their parent company Freedom Holding, Inc. – and that’s the polite stuff.
“Haart’s indentured servitude must be remedied,” the complaint says, naming moneymen Paolo Barbieri and Jeffrey Feinman as defendants along with Scaglia. “It cannot be that a man can convince his wife to give up millions in dollars in salary and benefits, plus an employment contract at the peak of her career (along with the security and independence that come with those things) and then leave her with nothing when his bait-and-switch is revealed.”
Today’s action by Haart and her Morrison Cohen LLP attorneys follows the “smear campaign” that the exec says she is fighting over litigation from Scaglia that she used FHI as her personal bank account. “While the extent of her unauthorized spending is still being unearthed, to date, it is clear that Haart’s vanity and disregard for her fiduciary duties caused her to spend millions of dollars of money that was not hers, solely to feed her personal self-aggrandizement,” says the Delaware-set suit filed last month.
“While he holds himself out to the media and others as a billionaire, in truth, Scaglia’s so-called wealth is nothing more than smoke and mirrors,” says Harrt’s sharp elbowed 45-page filing. “Haart’s indentured servitude must be remedied. It cannot be that a man can convince his wife to give up millions in dollars in salary and benefits, plus an employment contract at the peak of her career (along with the security and independence that come with those things) and then leave her with nothing when his bait-and-switch is revealed,” the document adds (read it here).
My Unorthodox Life, which was renewed for a second season in September last year, depicts Haart’s exit from her ultra-orthodox Jewish faith and the religious community of Monsey, NY, and her emergence as a modern woman in Manhattan’s fashion and creative industry. As a part of that often compelling evolution, which includes her running the “talent-empowering” EWG, second husband Scaglia played a big role on and off camera in the series.
Unsurprisingly the show makes a few appearances in Friday’s suit. The filing asserts that MUL “was an immediate success and thrust EWG into the mainstream media far beyond its original industry insider status,” It goes on to tell of a text from Scaglia to Haart in June 2021 that paints the windfall the series could provide over the long term for the couple and their companies: “The Netflix show will accrue immediate value to EWG regardless of bankers.”
However, even as Scaglia and Haart talked about taking their company public, the well-heeled couple decided in early 2021 to call it quits personally and separate.
Although spotlighted by NYC tabloids, everything in the divorce was fairly amicable and moving through the courts, according to today’s filing. In fact, the PR-conscious couple planned a press release for Valentine’s Day this year revealing they “were divorcing for personal reasons but would remain as business partners in FHI/EWG because that venture was strong.”
According to the lawsuit, that press release never happened because just days beforehand, Haart discovered she had been left high and dry. Scaglia allegedly amended FHI’s Articles of Incorporation to hand him preferred shares. That move left him in control of the company despite a promise to give Haart 50% of the stock.
“As a result, when Scaglia transferred 50% of the stock in FHI to Haart, her ownership and control of FHI was purely illusory and she had no ability to prevent Scaglia from taking all of the money paid by EWG for Haart’s valuable services as CEO for himself,” the filing notes. “At the time that Haart agreed to take on the position as CEO of EWG without a direct salary or employment contract, she was completely unaware of Scaglia’s fraudulent plan.”
Laying out the dispute in the kind of detail accountants love, the five-claim complaint is pretty specific that Haart, who says she should have been paid at least $7.3 million for running EWG, isn’t interested in baubles:
Haart’s damages are as follows: the millions of dollars in management fees EWG paid to FHI for Haart’s services as EWG’s CEO 10 ; the scores of millions of dollars of the companies’ net value or the hundreds of millions of dollars of value that Haart’s efforts added to EWG’s potential sale price. Those damages must be ascertained at trial. Irrespective of the amount of damages, Scaglia’s liability is clear: he purposefully misled his fiancée as to what the FHI shares represented, originally hiding from her the existence of his own preferred shares in the company and then later failing to deliver the requisite full 50% of the preferred shares to Haart. Haart relied on those misrepresentations to her detriment and spent years working to benefit the venture. When the parties’ marriage failed, Scaglia used his preferred shares to oust Haart from her job and leave her with nothing to show for her years of labor.
There is no indication the ongoing divorce proceedings or today’s filing will delay the upcoming second season of My Unorthodox Life, which is expected to debut later this year. However, as is the case with a number of unscripted shows nowadays, the real drama and action may be off camera.
My Unorthodox Life is EP’d by Jeff Jenkins, Ross Weintraub, Reinout Oerlemans, and Haart. The series is produced by Jeff Jenkins Productions, in association with 3BMG.