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Byron Allen files another lawsuit against McDonald’s over ads

Allen said the restaurant's pledge to spend marketing dollars with Black-owned media companies is nothing more than fraud.

Allen said the restaurant's pledge to spend marketing dollars with Black-owned media companies is nothing more than fraud.

McDonald’s is facing another lawsuit brought by entertainer Byron Allen and his Allen Media Group, this time accusing the fast food chain of failing to fulfill a pledge to spend a certain amount of marketing dollars with Black-owned media companies.

The lawsuit, filed in California state court earlier this month, accuses McDonald’s of fraud and “false promise,” which Allen Media Group says violates local civil laws.

According to the complaint, McDonald’s pledged to put between 2 and 5 percent of its overall marketing budget for commercials aired on Black-owned television stations, cable networks and other media properties.

Allen Media Group is one of the largest operators of broadcast television stations and cable networks owned by a Black businessman. The company counts Entertainment Studios, the Weather Channel, The Grio and Black News Channel among its media properties, as well as local television stations in 21 metropolitan areas.

Allen is known for his litigious style of dealmaking, with his first lawsuits brought against pay television companies who refused to carry some of his channels about a decade ago. The lawsuits filed against AT&T, Comcast and Charter Communications were either settled or dismissed.

McDonald’s has been a target of Allen in the past: The company is a defendant in a federal discrimination lawsuit brought by Allen that seeks $10 billion in damages. Last year, a federal judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Allen should be given the opportunity to prove that McDonald’s illegally and unjustifiably withheld advertising dollars from his media properties.

While that matter is still pending, Allen launched another assault against McDonald’s this month after his company tried to strike a marketing deal with the restaurant chain at some point in the past. According to the complaint filed in state court, Allen reacted to the restaurant’s public pledge to set aside commercial spend for Black-owned media properties by sending “spend outlay proposals” to McDonald’s, which were rejected.

Allen says the promise made by McDonald’s was nothing more to appease critics who accuse the restaurant of capitalizing on Black customers while failing to support Black-owned businesses.

“[It is] a self-serving ploy to cast itself as racially sensitive and sympathetic,” Allen said in the complaint filed this month. “But, really, [it is] to intentionally mislead the public and with reckless disregard for the truth. McDonald’s had no intent to fulfill its commitment; it’s plan was, and is, a fraud.”

McDonald’s fired back this week, calling Allen out for his numerous attempts at litigation and reaffirming its support for Black-owned businesses.

“While McDonald’s continues to invest in diverse initiatives to create real change in communities, Byron Allen files baseless lawsuits as part of a public smear campaign against our company to try to line his pockets,” a spokesperson for the restaurant company said. “This latest action is straight from his standard litigation playbook, cherry picking allegations to create a false and misleading narrative that is inconsistent with the facts and calculated to distract from the markedly low ratings and reach of his media properties. McDonald’s has a long history of investment in diverse communities and partners, and we are proud of our record. We will not be coerced by these in terrorem tactics and will defend ourselves vigorously.”

Last October, Allen defended his earlier lawsuit against McDonald’s during an interview with CNN journalist Chris Wallace.

“You need to do business with the people who do business with you, and you just can’t continue to discriminate — you have to close the trade deficit,” Allen said.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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