WGA Files Suit Against Big 4 Agencies re Packaging Fees

by Larry Brody

Where we are now, via the WGA Negotiating Committee yesterday:

Dear Members,

Today the WGA filed suit in California state court against the four largest packaging agencies: WME, CAA, UTA, and ICM.  You can read the lawsuit here.

Guild members Patti Carr, Ashley Gable, Barbara Hall, Deric Hughes, Chip Johannessen, Deirdre Mangan, David Simon, and Meredith Stiehm have agreed to be plaintiffs, representing themselves and all writers harmed by packaging fees.

The goal of the lawsuit is a judicial declaration that packaging fees are unlawful as well as an injunction prohibiting talent agencies from entering into future packaging fee arrangements. The suit will also seek damages on behalf of writers and repayment of illegal profits.

The complaint is comprised of two claims:

  1. Packaging fees violate California fiduciary duty law.  Under state law, talent agents are fiduciaries, who are required by law to represent writers with undivided loyalty and without conflicts of interest.
  2. Packaging fees also violate California’s Unfair Competition Law.  Packaging is an unfair practice because it violates a federal statute, the so-called “anti-kickback” provision of the Taft-Hartley Act.  The direct payment of our agencies by our employers is prohibited under both state and federal law.

The WGA will continue to use all appropriate methods, including negotiation and litigation, to align agency interests with the interests of writers.

In Solidarity,

WGAW Board of Directors

David A. Goodman, President
Marjorie David, Vice President
Aaron Mendelsohn, Secretary-Treasurer
John August
Andrea Berloff
Angelina Burnett
Patti Carr
Travis Donnelly
Jonathan Fernandez
Ashley Gable
Deric A. Hughes
Michele Mulroney
Zak Penn
Luvh Rakhe
David Slack
Meredith Stiehm
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin

WGAE Council

Beau Willimon, President
Jeremy Pikser, Vice President
Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer
Monica Lee Bellais
Kyle Bradstreet
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen
Bonnie Datt
Kaitlin Fontana
A.M. Homes
Kim Kelly
Susan Kim
Chris Kyle
Gail Lee
Kathy McGee
Hamilton Nolan
Phil Pilato
Courtney Simon
David Simon
Amy Sohn
Kelly Stout
Tracey Scott Wilson
Michael Winship

Related news:

WGA To Membership: Lawyer Up! David Goodman Explains Why Attorneys & Managers Can Fill The Gap

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

3 thoughts on “WGA Files Suit Against Big 4 Agencies re Packaging Fees”

  1. Larry, What is your best advice for non-WGA writers who do not want to communicate with agents-given the current battle-but who will never give up trying to sell their stuff to Hollywood? .

    1. Hi Joanne. Thanks for asking. As far as I know, it’s within the rules for you as a non-member to communicate with agents and keep doing all you can to become a known quantity. But I would suggest that the safest way to go about this is to start off with a call to the WGAW. Talk to either the legal department or the membership department (or both), explain your situation, and ask what Guild policy on the matter is. I’m sure they’ll be glad to tell you…unless there isn’t an official Guild policy, in which case, well, “Yikes!” for a lot of reasons. Oh…and then let us know, okay?

      Best,

      LB

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