Personal managers group sues over Calif. Talent Agencies Act

NCOPM seeks to block state from enforcing 1978 law

The National Conference of Personal Managers has sued the State of California, alleging that the California Talent Agencies Act is unconstitutional.

Suit, filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief along with a preliminary and permanent injunction forbidding the State of California from enforcing or attempting to enforce the Talent Agencies Act.

The Las Vegas-based NCOPM has several hundred members but does not include many of the most prominent Los Angeles-based management companies.

The group’s complaint alleges that the act — approved in 1978 — violates freedom of speech and association guarantees of the First Amendment, the indentured servitude prohibitions of the 13th Amendment, the due process and equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment and the Interstate Commerce Clause of the constitution.

The 1978 Talent Agencies Act deregulated managers and has been interpreted as preventing them from procuring work. It contains the language, “No person shall engage in or carry on the occupation of a talent agency without first procuring a license therefore from the Labor Commissioner.”

Managers have long contended that the law enables actors to get out of management contracts without paying commissions. The NCOPM said the California Labor Commissioner has penalized personal managers for allegedly acting as unlicensed talent agencies, voided personal management contracts and ordered management commissions to be forfeited or returned.

The NCOPM suit names as defendants California Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. The action contends that the wording of the act is vague.

“As presently worded and applied, the TAA has resulted in plaintiff being unfairly singled out without due process and denied its ability to pursue lawful business opportunities to the detriment of the plaintiff and the artists that it represents,” the suit said. “The vagueness of the TAA does not provide the plaintiff with adequate notice as to what specific behavior is to be restrained. It fails to state with specificity who is subject to regulation and what act or acts specifically constitute a violation of the regulation.”

NCOPM prexy Clinton Ford Billups Jr. said in a statement, “Commission payments to personal managers that have been either wrongfully disgorged by the Labor Commissioner or negotiated away by a manager afraid to face a TAA controversy are estimated to have cost our profession in excess of one-half billion dollars.”

Action also noted that many NCOPM members are managers who reside outside California and alleged that the law deprives out-of-state personal managers of access to the state’s talent market on equal terms.

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said, “We have not been provided with a copy of the complaint, so it would be premature to comment at this time.”

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