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Script competition

ATA blasts WGA ‘fraud’ amendment

The US Association of Talent Agencies (ATA) and one of its main members has dismissed an amendment made by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) to its lawsuit against the ATA as “desperate” and a “publicity stunt.”

The WGA changed its lawsuit against the ATA yesterday, accusing it of “constructive fraud” related to a failure to disclose facts to its clients and of being in conflict with them.

The move relates to the WGA’s accusation that the agencies’ practice of packaging has been detrimental to writers – something the ATA refutes and which has been at the root of the ongoing battle between the two parties.

However, the WGA added that the amendment did not imply intent but focused on the fact that ATA member agencies, including the WME, CAA, UTA and ICM, had put their own interests before those of their clients.

CAA counsel Richard Kendall described the WGA litigation as “a publicising stunt and now they are in strategic retreat. This amendment will delay, but not avoid, the court’s anticipated dismissal of the WGA’s case.”

The ATA added that the amendment was “a desperate attempt by the WGA to keep their utterly meritless legal battle alive.”

It continued: “Today’s action by the WGA is further evidence that Guild leadership had no intent to pursue a negotiated solution with the ATA, instead opting for a long and costly legal process that was completely avoidable.

“It is ironic that the Guild is accusing these agencies of fraud when, in reality, it is Guild leadership who have misled their members into believing they are trying to make a deal.”

The ATA said it now wanted to return to discussions with the WGA over the dispute, following the Guild’s lawsuit filed in April.

The latest twist in the lengthy battle between the ATA and WGA came last week when the president and CEO of the US’s Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) hit out at the WGA for its part in the ongoing stand-off with the agency business.

That came after US-based Verve Talent and Literary Agency made headlines by agreeing to sign up to the WGA’s code. As well as other stipulations, it requires agencies to eliminate the packaging fees they currently charge for bundling talent and bringing projects together for TV shows.

More than 7,000 of the WGA’s members, including high-profile writers such as Shonda Rhimes, David Simon and Damon Lindelof, fired their agents last month after members of the ATA, including CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners, refused to sign the new code.

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