Terrence Howard has launched a lawsuit against Creative Arts Agency (CAA), a premier talent agency representing many of entertainment’s biggest stars, alleging the company swindled him out of a fortune for his work on “Empire.”

The Fox series debuted in 2015, with Howard and Taraji P. Henson starring as co-leads. In a complaint filed on Friday (Dec. 8), the actor alleged his agents brokered a deal with the network that padded their own pockets. CAA agents also represented co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and production company Imagine Entertainment in the package.

The filing alleges that Howard was misled to believe he was being fairly compensated despite asking for higher wages throughout the six-season run. “Discovery will show that this was racism,” said attorney Carlos Moore, who is representing the actor. The petition is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

Howard, however, told Rolling Stone, “I can’t say for certain this was a racial issue, but I can’t imagine another counterpart – a white counterpart – with the same accolades, name recognition and numbers that I had, receiving the lowball pay that I was receiving.” The Best Man standout reportedly banked $125,000 per episode for the pilot and was earning $325,000 by season six. His agents claimed his pay was on par with white leads of successful shows such as “Mad Men” and “House of Cards.”

He noted, “You have all your agents telling you that you got the best deal possible, telling you, ‘Everything is good. Don’t worry, you’re going to get your money on the backend. After we get to a hundred episodes, we’re going into syndication, and man, you’re gonna get paid, don’t rock the boat.’”

“I drank the Kool-Aid. I believed that I was going to get paid, or that I was getting compensated properly, but I wasn’t,” said the actor, who has been nominated for more than 60 awards, including an Academy Award for his Oscar-worthy performance in Hustle & Flow. “I just didn’t want to piss off CAA and Fox. They’re big companies to go to war against. But sooner or later you’ve got to stand up because they’re just trampling over the rights of the artists.”

According to Variety, the practice of agents brokering package deals that allow them to forgo collecting the industry standard of 10% of their clients pay was banned in 2020 by the Writers Guild of America. “Empire” aired its final episode in April 2020.