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Verve Signs Meredith Stiehm, Key Negotiator for Writers Guild

Meredith Stiehm, co-chair of the Writers Guild of America’s agent negotiating committee, has signed with Verve talent agency.

She’s the second high-profile WGA leader to sign with Verve in recent days. “Big Fish” screenwriter and WGA West board member John August announced on June 28 that he had signed with Verve, which had agreed to abide by the WGA’s new rules governing talent agents on May 16.

Stiehm is also one of eight named plaintiffs in the WGA’s April 17 suit against CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners, alleging the agencies have been acting illegally in collecting packaging fees. The WGA directed its members five days earlier 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.

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 is by far the most prominent agency to sign on.

Stiehm spoke out during a March 12 news conference about her experiences while showrunner on “Cold Case,” noting that CAA had taken a packaging fee without informing her when “Cold Case” began its seven-season run. She said she was required to cut $500,000 from the budget of the show in order to get a final season on the air and discovered at that point that CAA was receiving a $75,000 per-episode packaging fee along with a profit participation that nearly matched her own.

“Ninety-four cents for every dollar I earned is indefensible,” she added at the time.

Stiehm also served as an executive producer on Showtime’s “Homeland,” and co-created FX’s adaptation of “The Bridge.” She is working on an adaptation of Christina Alger’s thriller novel “The Banker’s Wife,” produced by Federation Entertainment and starring Rosamund Pike. Other notable WGA members repped by Verve include include Howard Deutch, Colin Trevorrow, Jac Schaeffer, Gil Bellows, Christopher Yost and Leigh Jankiak.

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. It asked for a response by July 15.

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.

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