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CAA claims an agreement with WGA, but writers say not so fast

Creative Artists Agency headquarters in Century City.
(Benny Chan / Fotoworks / CAA)

Deal or no deal?

Creative Artists Agency said Monday that it reached a deal with the Writers Guild of America, potentially ending a standoff that has lasted more than a year when thousands of writers fired their agents over long-standing practices.

CAA said its proposed agreement was similar to one negotiated by ICM Partners with the WGA, which ends unpopular packaging fees — money agencies collect for assembling talent to work on projects — by June 30, 2022.

But the WGA said it has not yet reached a deal with CAA and called the agency’s statement “not accurate.” While CAA agreed to end packaging, a deal will also depend on how the lawsuits are resolved, the guild’s agency negotiating committee said in a note to members.

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“CAA has proposed changes to the agreement that the WGA has not — and cannot — agree to,” the committee wrote.

The Century City-based agency said it agreed to limit its ownership stake in an affiliated production company called Wiip to 20% or less.

Creative Artists Agency said Tuesday that it is laying off 90 agents and executives and furloughing about 275 assistants and other staff.

CAA said in a statement that it will work to bring its stake in Wiip into compliance with its WGA franchise agreement.

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“The fact that CAA and the WGA couldn’t resolve the broader dispute in a better way caused personal and professional damage to many relationships and cost millions of dollars to the Guild and the agencies,” CAA said in a statement. “Countless opportunities were lost for so many people.”

CAA spokesman Michael Mand did not respond to requests for comment about the proposed agreement or the claims that it was prematurely announced.

One high-level source close to the union who was not authorized to comment called CAA’s move “a publicity stunt.”

The WGA maintains that packaging fees and affiliated production create conflicts of interest between the financial interests of agents and their obligation to represent their writer clients. Agencies had argued that they could manage such conflicts.

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CAA, along with fellow large talent agencies United Talent Agency and WME, had sued WGA over the union instructing its members to fire their agents last year. But the COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on the agencies’ businesses, prompting them to make cost-cutting moves such as furloughs, salary cuts, reduction of work hours and layoffs.

In July, CAA laid off 90 agents and executives, as well as furloughed 275 staffers.

After a long standoff with the WGA, large agencies including UTA and ICM Partners signed agreements with the guild. WME and CAA are the only holdouts among the major firms.

UTA and WGA dropped their lawsuits against each other as part of their agreement.

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“While litigation is never our desired business strategy, we hoped in this case that it would provide a court’s relatively prompt direction as to the disagreements with the WGA,” CAA said in a statement. “Unfortunately, a pandemic eliminated the possibility of a prompt day in court.”

CAA said it expects its signed deal will be circulated to members of the union’s negotiating committee.

A spokesman for the WGA did not immediately return a request for comment.


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