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David Gersh Supports CAA on Managers Issue in WGA Legal Battle

Agency veteran Joe Cohen offers impassioned testimonial on role of reps

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Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

Gersh Agency principal David Gersh voiced his support for CAA’s position on the role of talent managers in the agency’s larger fight with the Writers Guild of America.

In a declaration filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, David Gersh asserts that WGA West executive director David Young told him that the guild would continue to ask talent managers to help find jobs for writers in order to keep the pressure on CAA and WME, the two largest agencies that have not signed a new franchise agreement with the WGA. Talent managers under California law are not allowed to directly procure employment for clients.

Separately, CAA veteran Joe Cohen, head of scripted TV, offers an impassioned testimonial on the role that long-term agents play in the lives of creators of indelible Hollywood content. Cohen references 25-year and longer relationships with showrunner clients believed to be Ryan Murphy and Matt Weiner, among others.

“Being an agent for writers starts with loving your client’s writing, sharing their passion, understanding their interests, inspirations, predilections, obsessions, and strengths. It means knowing your client in full as a human being; understanding his or her work ethic and habits; knowing their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, and significant others, their parents, kids and extended families. It means learning the best way to communicate with the client and their best way of communicating with others. It means being his or her counselor, friend, confidant, ally, partner and advocate,” Cohen states in the testimonial taken Dec. 11 in Los Angeles, according to the filing.

Of one longtime client, believed to be mega-multihyphenate Murphy, Cohen stated, “Through the entirety of our 25-year plus relationship, this artist was on my mind every day and night.”

CAA and WME are seeking an injunction that would end the 20-month boycott, which the guild has waged to do away with packaging fees and agency-affiliated production. The two agencies argue that the guild has abused its power in violation of antitrust law by coordinating with “non-labor” parties, such as talent managers and showrunners, to put pressure on the agencies.

A hearing on the injunction motion is set for Dec. 18.

Gersh signed the WGA’s franchise agreement in January, agreeing to phase out packaging fees and forswear ownership of a production entity. According to David Gersh’s declaration, he expressed frustration to Young that the WGA was encouraging its members to work with non-franchised talent managers, rather than franchised agents. In a conversation in August, Young said he would not let up the pressure.

“Mr. Young advised that the Guilds are not ready to withdraw their delegation to the managers, because the Guilds need to use the managers as leverage against WME and CAA,” Gersh said in the declaration.

WME and CAA have said they will accept the terms of the guild’s franchise agreement, but they say the WGA has been obstinate in refusing to reach a deal. In the meantime, agents and writer clients are leaving in favor of agencies that have reached a deal with the guild. CAA and WME contend that the guild is seeking to bleed them out of spite.

“In fact, the Guilds are simply allowing conflict-of-interest concerns with managers go unchecked in order to ‘leverage’ CAA and WME,” CAA’s attorneys wrote in a filing on Friday.

CAA’s legal filing was a response to the WGA’s opposition to a temporary injunction. The WGA argues that the Norris-LaGuardia Act forbids the judge from ending the boycott, and that its actions have not violated antitrust law.