Actors and talent managers clash over ethics code

Actors and talent managers clash over ethics code
David White, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA, will be the union's chief negotiator in contract talks set to begin next month. (Stefano Paltera/For The Times)

Actors and talent managers are sparring -- over a proposed code of ethics.

SAG-AFTRA on Tuesday unveiled a "Personal Manager Code of Ethics and Conduct" designed to promote "honest and ethical relationships between the union's members and the managers they choose to represent them."

The document, prompted by complaints from actors about their managers, was six years in the making. Unlike agents, managers are not regulated by the union's agreements.

Although the union said the code is voluntary and talent managers aren't required to sign it, the Talent Managers Assn. has opted not to endorse the document, apparently out of concern that some of its provisions go too far.

Among other measures, the code requires keeping SAG-AFTRA member clients' funds segregated in an escrow or trust account, limits the duration of written contracts,  and prohibits managers from collecting advance fees.  The code also prohibits managers from soliciting or procuring work on behalf of their clients unless they work with a franchise agent.

On Wednesday, SAG-AFTRA defended the code and sought to dispel "misinformation" about its provisions.

"We believed that the consensus document was acceptable to the TMA and others with whom we were communicating," the union said in an email to its members. "Unfortunately, it appears that there is intensive and, in some cases, wildly uninformed lobbying going on from special interests within the personal management community. Their communications have even reached the level of direct misrepresentations being sent to union members in an attempt to frighten them about the true intent of this Code."

The union stressed that the code is voluntary, developed in consultation with the talent management industry and would be beneficial to all sides.

"We believe, over time, that misleading and emotional statements about its intent and application will be proven false, and it will become the industry standard in these relationships,'' the message stated.


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