UPDATE: Judge Birotte has denied the WGA’s motion to delay the hearing to February. The hearing will be held Dec. 18 as originally scheduled.
CAA’s managing partner conceded on Friday that the Writers Guild of America’s boycott “worked,” and urged a judge to help bring the 19-month standoff to an end.
In a declaration filed in court, Bryan Lourd urged the court not to postpone an upcoming hearing on the agency’s motion for an injunction, saying that would only cause further damage to the agency.
“The WGA’s illegal boycott has worked,” he said. “As each day goes by, CAA faces additional permanent losses of clients and defections of talent agents. Each new loss magnifies the impact of the prior losses on CAA’s business, posing an existential threat to CAA’s representation of writers and showrunners if the boycott does not end now.”
WME also asked the judge not to delay the hearing, saying that it too will lose clients and agents if the hearing is postponed by two months.
CAA filed for an injunction on Tuesday, asking Judge Andre Birotte to order an end to the boycott. The agency argues that guild has overstepped its authority under antitrust law, and is hoping that the threat of an injunction will force the WGA to come to a settlement.
Since September, the agency has been trying to strike a deal with the WGA under which it would accept the guild’s terms. It would phase out packaging fees over two years and reduce its ownership stake in Wiip, an affiliated production entity, to less than 20%.
But the WGA has sought additional conditions, including an oversight mechanism to ensure that CAA complies with the 20% threshold. CAA argues that the WGA is trying to “bleed” the agency, and is not negotiating in good faith. In the meantime, clients are fleeing to UTA and other agencies.
WME, which has also struggled to come to terms with the WGA, joined in the request for an injunction on Wednesday. WME’s attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, argued in a filing on Friday that the “boycott is motivated by the illegitimate objective of putting WME out of the business of representing writers.”
CAA set a hearing date of Dec. 18, the soonest the motion could be heard under the law. On Thursday, the WGA asked to postpone the hearing to Feb. 12, saying it would need time to undertake discovery and that the agency’s schedule would interfere with the holidays.
Lawyers for CAA and WME opposed that request on Friday, arguing that the hearing must be held by the end of the year.
“The Guilds are bent on delay — because each day without a franchise allows the Guilds’ favored agencies and unlicensed managers to bleed CAA of writers and the agents who represent them and accomplish the Guilds’ stated goal to ‘conquer’ CAA,” CAA’s lawyers wrote.
A trial on the agencies’ lawsuit against the WGA is currently set for August 2021, though it could be postponed due to COVID. The agencies have made it clear that they cannot hold out that long.
Update: On Friday afternoon, Birotte denied the WGA’s request to postpone the hearing, and kept it set for Dec. 18. Birotte did postpone the deadline for the WGA to file its opposition to the injunction from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, apparently to accommodate the attorneys’ Thanksgiving plans.