The Writers Guild of America is warning of more legal action against non-franchised talent agencies in another sign of the deepness of the WGA-agency dispute.
The guild directed its nearly 15,000 members on April 12, when negotiations collapsed, to terminate relations with agents who refused to sign its new Code of Conduct, which bars agencies from accepting packaging fees and engaging in ownership of affiliate production companies. Less than 70 agencies have signed the code, with Verve being the most prominent to do so.
The WGA filed a lawsuit filed on April 17 against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners alleging that the practice of agencies collecting packaging fees violates state and federal law. The WGA announced Friday in an email to members that it has received reports that unidentified agencies have been trying to commission or take package fees on deals negotiated after April 12.
“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. “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.”
Member-reported examples of inappropriate conduct include: an agency claiming it is due a commission even though the essential deal points were negotiated by other representatives after April 12; an agency claiming the WGA is granting waivers to allow agencies to complete deals on projects they set up prior to April 12; and an agency trying to take a package on a new project from a writer under an overall deal.
“It’s particularly egregious that certain agents, attorneys and managers are focusing these ploys on younger or less experienced writers, though experienced writers have also been affected,” the WGA said. “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.”
Negotiations between agents, repped by the Association of Talent Agents, and the WGA are scheduled to resume on June 7.