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Judge dismisses most of WGA’s claims in its lawsuit against talent agencies

The Writers Guild of America West office in Los Angeles.
The Writers Guild of America West office in Los Angeles.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge on Monday dismissed most of the claims in a lawsuit the Writers Guild of America brought against three major talent agencies over long-standing practices that the union believes are illegal.

The WGA sued United Talent Agency, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, alleging that the agency practice of collecting packaging fees for assembling talent on projects violated the law. On Monday, U.S. District Judge André Birotte Jr. in Los Angeles dismissed many of the union’s claims, including that the agencies took part in an illegal group boycott and unlawful racketeering.

Birotte did not dismiss all of the WGA’s claims, however. For example, individual writers who are part of WGA’s lawsuit can continue with their claim that the agencies breached their fiduciary duties by not being fully transparent about the use of packaging fees.

The WGA and major talent agencies have been in a long-running dispute over packaging fees and affiliated productions. A year ago, thousands of writers fired their agents and were instructed by the WGA to not work with talent agencies that did not agree to the union’s terms.

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So far, more than 80 talent agencies have signed individual deals with the WGA, including Paradigm Talent Agency. Other large talent agencies, like WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners, have not signed WGA franchise agreements.

WME, UTA and CAA in a statement called the judge’s order a “resounding victory” for their businesses.

“What has become crystal clear is that [Executive Director] David Young, [WGA West President] David Goodman and this WGA leadership have led thousands of writers over a cliff, wasted their member dues on failed lawsuits, and left them without agents to represent and advocate for them for more than a year,” the agencies said.

“There remain six powerful claims in our lawsuit that we will pursue, and discovery is underway,” Goodman said in a statement. “We are confident that the evidence uncovered in this process will support the claims detailed in our lawsuit.”

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WME, CAA and UTA have also sued the WGA in federal court, alleging the union organized an illegal group boycott that violated anti-trust laws when writers fired their agents last year. The trial could begin in March 2021.

WGA had originally sued the talent agencies in state court and later requested to pull its lawsuit, filing a countersuit in federal court.

COVID-19 has significantly hurt Hollywood workers and talent agencies alike, as many productions have been shelved. CAA and UTA have implemented salary reductions. WME’s parent company, Endeavor, said one-third of its workforce will be affected by furloughs, have their positions eliminated or be shifted from full-time to part-time work.


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