Beverly Hills boutique behind CAA-CL gripe

The Kern Agency, a fledgling Beverly Hills literary/talent boutique, has laid claim to the complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission about potential conflict of interest in Creative Artists Agency’s new relationship with Credit Lyonnais.

As reported earlier this week, agency principals Darrell Kern and Gavin Kern wrote a letter to FTC investigator John Jacobs alleging that CAA has “engaged in an unlawful restraint of trade” in its alliance with the French bank. CAA’s “consulting” and “advisory” role, according to the complaint, “prevents independent agencies (from) fairly competing for available business” (Daily Variety, April 12).

Jacobs said Wednesday that he could not discuss whether the FTC would pursue an investigation.

Informed sources, however, said the agency has received only one complaint and will likely wait until it receives more information regarding possible antitrust violations before proceeding with a full-blown review.

FTC officials would not respond to such speculation.

Darrell Kern said he was skeptical about what action the FTC will take, given the “assistance that CAA’s clients (including Barbra Streisand) have given to the new administration in Washington,” a reference to Hollywood’s participation in Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Kern added, “I also express skepticism toward the guilds, given their relationship with Credit Lyonnais, which is processing the residuals for at least the Screen Actors Guild.”

Not seeking pub

Kern said in coming forth as the author of the letter to the FTC, he is not looking for publicity for himself or his agency. Rather, he said: “We are taking this position for our clients’ right to compete for available work. … For our clients’ sake, we cannot allow this to go unchallenged.”

He added, “I find it incredulous that all competing agencies are so influenced and fearful of CAA’s power that they are allowing this to fall on the Kern Agency.”

CAA, which has maintained that its association with Credit Lyonnais does not post a conflict of interest, had no comment regarding Kern’s remarks.

Berg noisy

The party who has been the most vocal and vehement against the CAA/CL relationship has been ICM chairman Jeff Berg, who has not filed an official complaint with the FTC or the guilds.

On Monday, CAA met with reps from the actors, directors and writers guilds to clarify the agency’s role with CL. The parties are to reconvene next week (Daily Variety, April 13).

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