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ATA Warns Managers and Lawyers of Legal Threat for Procuring Writer Jobs Amid WGA Battle

The Association of Talent Agencies is asking its members to drop a dime on managers and lawyers who help writers find jobs while the battle between the ATA and WGA rages on.

ATA executive director Karen Stuart decried what she called “unlawful conduct” on the part of the WGA. On Monday, the guild told its members that managers and lawyers had the guild’s blessing to help them find work now that writers have been ordered by the WGA to fire their agents.

“We are evaluating all legal options to address this unlawful conduct. We request that, to the extent you are aware of managers and attorneys who are embracing the WGA’s request to procure and negotiate employment in violation of the law, you track this information and the names of those who are participating in unfair competition,” wrote Stuart in a letter sent Thursday to ATA members.

The ATA cites labor laws in California and New York saying “only licensed talent agents may procure employment for clients.” The WGA disagrees, and called the assertion “propaganda” in a Monday letter to guild members.

“The reported concerns raised by attorneys and managers are based on a misunderstanding of the Talent Agencies Act,” the WGA wrote. “Nothing in the Act limits writers’ right to receive necessary representation, including from the managers and attorneys who have long provided representation services separate and apart from the services provided by agents.”

The WGA on Tuesday offered to pay the damages of any managers and lawyers who might be sued by talent agencies or clients for procuring employment. The ATA called the WGA’s offer “shocking and disturbing.” The guild had no immediate comment on the ATA’s warning about managers and lawyers.

The warning shot comes after news of the WGA’s lawsuit against the ATA on Monday, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of the guild’s West and East branches. Packaging fees are at the center of the suit, in the form of two claims that say the agency practice violates state and federal law.

The WGA’s 25-page complaint lists a host of what the guild asserts are harms caused to writers and to the guild by the fact that agencies receive packaging fees. The complaint details the guild’s view that packaging fees give agents a disincentive to fight for higher salaries for writers because the agency ultimate gets a cut of a backend profits. It also discusses the competitive nature of packaging and asserts that agencies sometimes thwart the hiring of top writers from rival agencies in order to avoid having to split a package with another agency.

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