WGA Blasts “Bad Behaviors” Of Unfranchised Agents, Lawyers and Managers On Package Fees & Commissions

The WGA says that it’s received reports that unnamed non-franchised agencies are trying to commission or take package fees on deals negotiated after the guild’s franchise agreement with the Association of Talent agents expired on April 12.

That’s when all WGA members were ordered to fire their agents who refuse to sign the guild’s new Code of Conduct. “In addition, it appears some industry attorneys and managers are complicit in attempts to secure packages and unearned commissions for non-franchised agencies,” the guild said tonight in a message to its members.

“If these bad behaviors continue, the guild will advise the full membership which agencies, law firms, or managers are acting contrary to their fiduciary duties, and we will take the appropriate legal action to protect members’ interests,” the guild said.

Member-reported examples of inappropriate conduct include:
• An agency claims it is due a commission even though the essential deal points were negotiated by other representatives after April 12th.
• An agency claims the Guild is giving waivers to allow agencies to complete deals on projects they set up prior to April 12th.
• An agency claims that “most writers” are putting 10% in escrow “until the agency situation resolves itself.” The implication is that the agency will get paid for deals made during the period when it was not authorized to represent writers. Attorneys have also made this false argument to writers, and tried to make acceptance of it a condition of representing new writers.
• An agency tries to take a package on a new project from a writer under an overall deal.
• An agency cancels a meeting for a client it no longer represents.
• An attorney claims he needs the former agency to participate in making a new deal or the attorney will not make the deal, this in violation of the attorney’s fiduciary duty to the writer client.

“It’s particularly egregious that certain agents, attorneys and managers are focusing these ploys on younger or less experienced writers,” the guild said, “though experienced writers have also been affected. Working Rule 23 prohibits Guild members from being represented by non-franchised agencies, and that includes paying commissions to those agencies where they are not due. Please contact us immediately at [email protected] if you encounter one of these practices or anything else of concern regarding representation.”

The guild noted that “There are many agents, attorneys, and managers who respect writers and are playing by the rules. The guild can provide a list of experienced attorneys and managers who are currently accepting new clients. Additionally, the list of franchised agencies is on the guild’s website.”

The WGA and the ATA, which haven’t met face to face since April 12, have agreed to return to the bargaining table on June 7.

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