CAA has asked a judge to dismiss claims made against the agency by showrunners David Simon and Meredith Stiehm as part of the Writers Guild of America’s lawsuit against four Hollywood talent agencies over the issue of packaging fees.
CAA’s response to the WGA lawsuit filed in April asserts that the statute of limitations has long since run out on Simon and Stiehm’s ability to file a legal claim in relation to the dealmaking the two describe in the lawsuit. Stiehm and Simon were among eight guild members listed as plaintiffs along with the WGA in the suit.
The response, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, also asserts that there are records to show that Stiehm should have been aware of the packaging fee arrangement on her CBS drama “Cold Case.” CAA asserts that Simon waived his right to sue after reaching a $30,000 settlement with the agency over the packaging arrangement on his 1990s NBC drama “Homicide: Life on the Street.”
“The only injury that Mr. Simon alleges occurred more than 19 years ago, and after discovering that injury in April 2000, Mr. Simon expressly and specifically waived and released that claim,” CAA’s answer states. “Thereafter, until the WGA ordered the mass firing of agents on April 12, 2019, Mr. Simon continuously retained his CAA agent, whom he admits has “been forthright and fair in all of my subsequent years in television.” It could not be clearer that Mr. Simon’s claims are barred for many reasons, including the doctrines of waiver and release, and the lapsing of the statutes of limitations on any possible claims that he might have with respect to ‘Homicide.’ “
The answer describes Stiehm’s claims “equally preposterous” regarding her surprise at learning about CAA’s package arrangement on the Jerry Bruckheimer TV/Warner Bros. TV series.
“She has known for decades that she was being included in television packages, and has repeatedly agreed in writing for 24 years that CAA, after helping her to secure employment on television shows, would receive prescribed packaging fees from the production studios instead of charging her any commissions,” the answer states.
CAA’s nine-page response focuses strictly on Simon and Stiehm’s claims as they relate directly to CAA. The agency said it still plans to file another response addressing the broader fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims raised in the WGA lawsuit.
Simon claims against CAA stem from the situation in the early 1990s when agent Matt Snyder represented both buyer and seller when director Barry Levinson decided to option Simon’s nonfiction book that was the basis of “Homicide.”
In a statement to Variety, Simon maintains that his CAA settlement was limited in scope. He also asserts that the WGA’s attorneys believe that the statute of limitations issue does not apply as CAA is likely still receiving some compensation via the “Homicide” packaging fee agreement.
Simon also addressed the criticism that has surfaced among some WGA members about the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit that is being funded by the guild. Some have questioned the propriety of the guild funding a legal action that could benefit those handful of members directly. Simon has vowed via social media to donate any proceeds that come his way to charity, a pledge he reiterated on Thursday.
Simon is a highly revered showrunner who penned a lengthy essay about his CAA experience that helped galvanize WGA members on the issue of taking a stand to ban packaging fees as an industry practice. The guild maintains that agents’ interests as “misaligned” with their clients because packaging fees are paid by the production entity rather than compensating agents through the standard 10% commission on client income.
The WGA and Association of Talent Agents are expected to meet on Friday for the first negotiating session in nearly two months. The sides are hoping to end the standoff that began April 12 when the WGA ordered members to fire agents that would not agree to the WGA’s newly implemented Agency Code of Conduct.
Here is Simon’s full response:
To my understanding, my settlement with CAA was to my mind limited to my willingness to continue utilizing Jeff Jacobs as my agent for all of my services as a television writer. I have done so and I agree that Mr. Jacobs was not involved in the packaging of my rights as a book author or in the initial secret packaging of my book. I reached that agreement, to my mind, with Mr. Jacobs, along with promise never to be involved in packaging me again. I did not understand that settlement to apply to Matt Snyder, who was directly involved in the secret packaging and whose conflict-of-interest in the matter is transparent. I did not to my mind ever settle with Mr. Snyder and to this date I have not retained the representation of Snyder or the CAA literary division on any project involving literary rights.
As to statute of limitations, I made clear to the WGA attorneys the timeline. It is their opinion that until it can be determined from a review of CAA’s financial records whether they continue to receive profits from their package of ‘Homicide’ into the present day, I should be included as a plaintiff.
To reaffirm, I am allowing myself to be included in the suit at the direct request of my union. My financial interest in the matter is limited to a willingness to donate any funds recovered to charities.