Agents: SAG skews opinion

ATA director calls guild's response 'odd and disturbing'

Continuing to criticize the Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood agents have accused SAG of misinterpreting a recent legal opinion about easing financial-interest rules.

Karen Stuart, exec director of the Assn. of Talent Agents, labeled SAG’s response “odd and disturbing” in a letter sent Monday to guild CEO Bob Pisano. She said SAG leaders have “erroneously” claimed vindication from state legislative counsel’s opinion that the ATA’s most recent proposal –which sought clearance for 49% ownership of agencies by production and distribution companies — would violate state law.

“Misplaced reliance on an opinion by a non-adjudicative third party stymies the negotiation process,” said Stuart. “It has been made clear to SAG that agents must comply with applicable state law requirements.”

Stuart noted that Bion Gregory’s opinion does not address whether ATA’s proposal is illegal on the question of “division of fees” from a sale. She stressed the ATA proposal does not intend to authorize a transaction that would violate state law but left the door open for SAG to offer alternatives.

“While we believe our proposal presently contains adequate safeguards, we, of course, are willing to consider any other express safeguards you might propose to insure that ATA’s intent and purposes of the proposal are not again misunderstood,” she said.

Stuart also said the “confusion” over ATA proposals could have been avoided if the issue been discussed at negotiations, which collapsed nearly a year ago. Pisano was not available for comment Monday.

Both sides have expressed a desire to bargain before SAG’s master franchise agreement expires Jan. 20, and Stuart reiterated that sentiment in her letter. SAG is not expected to set a date for negotiations until its elections conclude later this week.

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