Hollywood Talent Agency Strikes Deal With Writers Guild to End Boycott

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Writers Guild of America restored Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency’s ability to represent screenwriters after agreeing Wednesday to end a nearly two-year legal battle over talent packaging fees.

Most TV and film writers hire talent agencies to find them work and negotiate package deals — or contracts that bundle multiple talents for a project — with studios, often on a freelance basis. 

The guild accused the talent agencies of negotiating deals that heavily favor studios’ contract terms while driving down writers’ wages, decreasing job opportunities and cutting into union fees. 

For its part, CAA said in federal antitrust counterclaims that the guild stifled entertainment industry competition by directing thousands of its writers — including Tina Fey and Seth MacFarlane — to fire agents who didn’t agree with the guild’s bid to invalidate the fees.

The joint agreement by CAA and the guild filed Wednesday in the Central District of California withdraws both parties’ claims.

In a statement, a CAA spokesperson applauded the agreement.

“CAA and the WGA have concluded and signed a franchise agreement confirming CAA can resume representing writers and continue the important work of helping them realize their ambitions,” the statement said. “We end this year of unprecedented global challenges with the optimism and energy that today’s news brings, starting now, and for the years ahead.”

Under the deal, CAA and its private equity owner TPG Capital must reduce their ownership stake in affiliated production companies to 20%. 

The Writers Guild confirmed the deal in a statement to the more than 16,000 writers it represents.

“CAA may once again represent guild members for covered writing services,” the statement said. “WGA and CAA have also agreed to withdraw the legal claims each has brought against the other in federal court.”

For more than a year, WGA has signed franchise agreements with more than 100 other talent agencies, including United Talent Agency, a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit that signed with the union in July.

The agreements leave William Morris Endeavor, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, as the only major agency that hasn’t signed franchise contracts with WGA.

In a statement, WME called Wednesday’s agreement a “hopeful” development.

“We have reached out to the guild to learn more about the specific terms of their agreement with CAA, but we think today’s news is a positive development and suggests a path forward for WME to reach an agreement as well,” the statement said.

This past April, U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. tossed the bulk of the guild’s claims that agencies engaged in unlawful price-fixing with studios when securing package deals for writers they represented.

The guild had also accused CAA, WME and UTA of engaging in an illegal group boycott and blacklisting other agencies that agreed to the union’s labor rules, but Birotte dismissed those claims as well. 

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