Court dismisses Byron Allen's discrimination lawsuit against McDonald's

The owner of The Weather Channel had sought $100 million from the fast-food giant over ad spending, but a judge dismissed the case on free speech grounds.
McDonald's headquarters
A judge dismissed one of two lawsuits against McDonald's over its advertising practices. | Photo by Jonathan Maze

A state court judge in California this week dismissed media magnate Byron Allen’s discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, agreeing with the fast-food giant that the action lacked merit.

The $100 million lawsuit accused McDonald’s of breaking promises to spend more of its ad dollars on Black-owned media. Allen's media company includes Entertainment Studios Networks and The Weather Channel.

But McDonald’s argued that the lawsuit violated California’s “anti-SLAPP” statute, a 20-year-old regulation that allows defendants to ask a judge to dismiss a case that lacks merit and is tied to free speech.

The court dismissed the case for good and required that Allen pay McDonald’s legal fees. The judge ruled that Allen’s claims lacked even “minimal merit.”

“The court’s decision serves as confirmation of what we’ve said all along: This was just another frivolous lawsuit brought by Byron Allen as part of his smear campaign against McDonald’s,” the company said in a statement. “McDonald’s long ago made clear that we would not allow Mr. Allen to perpetuate false narratives at our expense or succumb to his extortionist tactics.”

Allen’s attorney vowed to appeal. “We disagree with the decision,” Louis “Skip” Miller, an attorney with Miller Barondess, said in an emailed statement. “The California legislature enacted a law, Civil Code [Section] 1711, prohibiting companies from making false statements to the public. This lawsuit seeks to uphold that law. We’re going to appeal this decision.”The lawsuit had come amid a series of legal actions claiming the Chicago-based chain discriminated against Black employees, franchisees or vendors.

Allen first filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s in 2021, accusing the company of discriminating against Black-owned media. That lawsuit was filed in a federal court and is still pending.

The company had pledged to increase ad spending with Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, women and LGBTQ-owned media companies to 10% by this year, from 4% in 2021.

He sued again in California last year, arguing that the company did not meet those promises. Allen argued that his company controls 90% of the Black-owned media market and that there was no way McDonald’s was meeting its spending promises, given the lack of spending with his Allen Media Group.

The lawsuit was filed in California based on a state law there that holds corporations to their public promises.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to add a quote from Allen's attorney.

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