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Abrams Artists Agency Offers to Stop Packaging Fees in Writers Guild Dispute

Abrams Artists Agency has offered to accept Writers Guild of America’s key requirements in order to return to representing WGA members again, three months after the bitter dispute began.

According to an Abrams spokesperson, the agency will stop taking packaging fees and not to engage in affiliate production if it can represent WGA members. The offer is conditional, in that Abrams won’t sign the WGA Code of Conduct due to the code’s requirements about information sharing. The WGA has not yet responded.

The WGA directed its members on April 12 to fire their agents following the major agencies’ refusal to sign onto a new Code of Conduct, which bars the agencies from collecting packaging fees and from owning interests in production companies. Five days later, the WGA and eight members sued CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners, alleging the agencies have been acting illegally in collecting packaging fees.

The union argues that the fees create an unlawful conflict of interest and it’s persuaded about 70 smaller agencies to sign the code. Verve, which has about 30 agents, agreed to the Code on May 16 and is by far the most prominent agency to sign on. Abrams has about 65 agents.

The WGA has been hit by a trio of suits by CAA, WME and UTA alleging that the guild is abusing its collective bargaining authority. The WGA has brushed off the suits and sent a cease-and-desist letter on June 28 to the Association of Talent Agents and the top eight agencies, accusing them of having engaged in “collusive actions that constitute unlawful restraints of trade” under the Sherman Act including collusion and price-fixing.

Negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents have been futile, collapsing twice — first on April 12 and again on June 7. WGA West president David Goodman announced on June 20 that the guild would only negotiate with WME, CAA, UTA, ICM Partners, Paradigm, Gersh, APA, Rothman Brecher and Kaplan Stahler. None of the agencies have done so, insisting that they will only bargain through the ATA.

Abrams is a member of the ATA. The ATA has not responded to a request for comment about the Abrams offer.

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