Actor Harvey Keitel loses lawsuit against E*Trade over commercials

By Jonathan Stempel
Actor Harvey Keitel attends the 2016 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in Manhattan, New York February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Harvey Keitel, the Oscar-nominated actor whose movies include "Taxi Driver" and "Pulp Fiction," has lost a lawsuit he brought over a starring role he did not get in E*Trade commercials.

A New York state judge in Manhattan this week dismissed Keitel's lawsuit accusing E*Trade Financial Corp of reneging on a January 2014 contract for the online brokerage to feature him in three commercials for $1.5 million.

Keitel, 77, said E*Trade agreed to have him do the commercials, after the actor Christopher Walken had declined to participate, only to decide unexpectedly to move "in a different direction" and instead offer only a $150,000 termination fee.

Justice Charles Ramos of state supreme court, however, said a written "term sheet" for hiring Keitel merely lay the groundwork for a contract, and that there was no "meeting of the minds" about what the contract should say.

He said it did not matter that employees of E*Trade's ad agency and a marketing firm it hired were exchanging emails, which Keitel did not see at the time, calling the offer firm.

Ramos also noted that Keitel's agent was still negotiating, including in an email in which she said Keitel "really wants a director who knows his work. Maybe someone like Ridley Scott, etc," on the day before E*Trade changed course.

Ramos' decision was dated Monday and filed with the court clerk the following evening. E*Trade's headquarters are in midtown Manhattan.

Victor Bushell, a lawyer for Keitel, did not immediately respond on Thursday to requests for comment.

Marc Greenwald, a lawyer for E*Trade, said: "E*Trade is pleased that the court recognized that its advertising agent's expression of interest wasn't an enforceable agreement, and that the court properly dismissed this case with prejudice."

The case is Keitel v. E*Trade Financial Corp, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 652220/2015.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)