CAA Asks Judge to Intervene in WGA Fight as Negotiations Stall

CAA asked a federal judge on Tuesday to end the 19-month standoff between the Writers Guild of America and the major agencies, as settlement talks between the guild and the agency have stalled.

CAA asked Judge Andre Birotte for an injunction that would require the WGA to drop its boycott of the agency.

The move comes as CAA has been unable to strike a deal with the guild that would allow writers to return to the agency. Since September, CAA has said it will accept the WGA’s terms, and will agree to phase out the practice of collecting packaging fees over two years, and will divest itself of all but 20% of its ownership stake of Wiip, an affiliated production company.

But the WGA has dug in on the divestiture issue, and no progress has been made since then. In the meantime, CAA says it is losing clients and agents to rival agencies that have come to an agreement with the WGA.

CAA has been arguing in court for more than a year that the WGA boycott is illegal under federal antitrust law. The agency defeated the WGA’s motion to dismiss the suit, and a trial on that issue is now scheduled for next August. But CAA — which like all agencies has been hit hard by the pandemic — says it cannot wait that long for a resolution.

“CAA is losing clients to UTA and other talent agencies the Guilds apparently favor, and CAA agents who represent writers are leaving the agency,” the agency said in its motion. “Now, the Guilds’ recent actions show that the Guilds’ true objective is to settle scores and manipulate the levers of power in Hollywood by favoring certain talent agencies over others, for reasons unrelated to legitimate conflict-of-interest concerns.”

The guild directed its members to fire their agents in April 2019, after the agencies refused to accept a new Code of Conduct. The new code was designed to stamp out packaging fees, whereby agencies collected money from producers for packaging clients into a project, rather than the traditional commission. The guild has argued that the structure — which has been an industry standard for more than 40 years — represents an impermissible conflict of interest.

The WGA is also seeking to limit agencies’ ability to expand into film and TV production by requiring that franchised agents own no more than 20% of any production company.

CAA says it has agreed to transfer its production affiliate, Wiip, into a blind trust for the purpose of reducing its stake in the company to less than 20%.

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