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Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have told members that the guild will press on in its legal battle with WME, CAA and UTA over packaging fees in the wake of a federal judge’s decision to dismiss most of the guild’s lawsuit against the talent agencies.

The WGA sent a message to members Tuesday, a day after U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte dismissed eight of the 14 claims brought by the WGA in its countersuit, including claims that packaging fees amount to illegal kickbacks and were a form of racketeering.

In a message sent to members by the WGA’s agency negotiating committee and the WGA West board of directors, guild leaders emphasized that the claims involving breach of fiduciary duty and price-fixing among agencies over packaging fees were allowed to proceed and will be the crux of the guild’s case. A trial date has been set for March 2021.

The high cost of litigation and the fact that Birotte’s rulings to date have favored the agencies’ position has led to speculation that the guild would try to reach a settlement with agencies. But the negotiating committee vowed to press on with discovery and depositions, arguing that the agencies will not be eager to have their financial information dissected in court.

“While the agencies are predictably claiming victory in hopes of undermining member solidarity, in private they are not celebrating,” the message said. “This is not the ‘victory’ they predicted or that they needed, which was the complete dismissal of the lawsuit. Instead, six powerful claims that, in their scope, call into question the entirety of the packaging regime will now continue to trial. Discovery – which the agencies have reason to fear and which has already begun – will now proceed in force. The agencies will be required to defend, in public, those practices that for decades they sought to keep private. For those purposes, six claims is enough.”

CAA, UTA and WME issued a statement Monday that asserted a knockout blow in the long-running dispute over the WGA’s move on April 13, 2019, to tell members to fire their agents if they had not agreed to bans on packaging fees and affiliate production. “The WGA’s claims against the major talent agencies were gutted today by the federal court. This is a resounding victory for CAA, UTA and WME,” the three agencies said in a joint statement.

Trial is schedule for March, 2021. The WGA concluded its message with the warning that the agencies will face increased scrutiny: “With the judge’s decision yesterday, there will be no lifeline to shield the agencies. We look forward to proceeding with discovery and then to trial.”

Here’s the entire message:

Dear members,

Yesterday the federal judge handed down a decision on motions in the lawsuit the WGA filed against WME, CAA and UTA. He upheld some of our claims and dismissed others. The most disappointing of those dismissed was the racketeering charge. But the core claims of our lawsuit – namely, that packaging is a breach of fiduciary duty, and that the agencies have committed antitrust violations by fixing the price of those packages – those claims remain.

While the agencies are predictably claiming victory in hopes of undermining member solidarity, in private they are not celebrating. This is not the “victory” they predicted or that they needed, which was the complete dismissal of the lawsuit. Instead, six powerful claims that, in their scope, call into question the entirety of the packaging regime will now continue to trial. Discovery – which the agencies have reason to fear and which has already begun – will now proceed in force. The agencies will be required to defend, in public, those practices that for decades they sought to keep private. For those purposes, six claims is enough.

Through all of this, our goal has always been the same, to realign agency economic interest with ours. This lawsuit remains powerful pressure in that direction. And it operates alongside our greatest asset: your solidarity in continuing to deprive the remaining unfranchised agencies of their writer clients.

With the judge’s decision yesterday, there will be no lifeline to shield the agencies. We look forward to proceeding with discovery and then to trial.

In solidarity,

WGA Agency Negotiating Committee

Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
David Shore, Co-Chair
Meredith Stiehm, Co-Chair
Lucy Alibar
John August
Angelina Burnett
Zoanne Clack
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Ashley Gable
Deric A. Hughes
Chip Johannessen
Michael Schur
Tracey Scott Wilson
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin
David A. Goodman, President WGAW, ex-officio
Marjorie David, Vice President WGAW, ex-officio
Michele Mulroney, Secretary-Treasurer WGAW, ex-officio
Beau Willimon, President WGAE, ex-officio
Kathy McGee, Vice President WGAE, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer WGAE, ex-officio

WGAW Board of Directors

David A. Goodman, President
Marjorie David, Vice President
Michele Mulroney, Secretary-Treasurer
Liz Alper
Angelina Burnett
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Travis Donnelly
Jonathan Fernandez
Ashley Gable
Dante W. Harper
Deric A. Hughes
Zoe Marshall
Luvh Rakhe
David Slack
Meredith Stiehm
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin