US judge dismisses ad discrimination suit against McDonald's

New York (AFP) – A federal judge dismissed a discrimination lawsuit that accused McDonald's of refusing to advertise on Black-owned media networks because of their owner's race.


US District Judge Fernando Olguin ruled on Tuesday that Entertainment Studios Networks and the Weather Group failed to provide enough evidence to show that the fast-food giant discriminated in not advertising with the Black-owned media outfit.

Entertainment Studios is owned by Black media entrepreneur Byron Allen, who had accused McDonald's of instituting a "racially discriminatory contracting process" that "pigeonholed" the company for an African-American audience.

The company argues it had programming geared towards a variety of viewers, especially after its 2018 purchase of the Weather Channel.

McDonald's established "a two-tiered, race based system and shut plaintiff out of the general market (i.e. white-owned media) tier," according to the complaint, which sought $10 billion in damages.

But Olguin said the allegations were not sufficiently supported.

The plaintiffs said they had attempted "many times" to contract with McDonald's, but the judge wrote that the "only supporting allegations" were that marketing representatives for Allen pitched the Weather Channel to the McDonald's ad agency after Allen acquired the network.

The allegations "appear to be insufficient," Olguin wrote.

"Plaintiffs allege that defendant contracts with 'similarly-situated, white-owned networks,' but there are few details regarding the comparator networks," the judge wrote.

Olguin dismissed Allen's complaint against McDonald's, but directed plaintiffs to file an amended complaint by December 10.

Attorneys for Entertainment Studios will file a new complaint with more details "whereupon I fully expect the case to go forward with discovery and trial," said Skip Miller, a partner at Miller Barondess, which is representing Allen.

Loretta Lynch, the former US attorney general who is now a partner at law firm Paul, Weiss representing McDonald's, said the food giant will prevail if plaintiffs extend the litigation.

"This case is about revenue, not race, and was dismissed because plaintiffs have provided absolutely no factual basis for their claims," Lynch said in a statement.

"Should plaintiffs amend their complaint for a second time, we will be ready to assess the new claims and move again as we believe there is no evidence supporting this meritless case."