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ICM blasts WGA court move

ICM Partners has criticised the Writers Guild of America (WGA) for refiling its lawsuit against the top four US talent agencies.

David A Goodman

The WGA had filed a lawsuit against William Morris Endeavor (WME), CAA, UTA and ICM – the ‘big four’ members of the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) – in a state court but has now resubmitted it to a federal one.

The move to the US District Court is designed to widen the WGA’s litigation against the agencies to include complaints they violated antitrust racketeering laws.

But the latest development has seen talent agency ICM accuse the WGA of moving it because it knew its claims were “baseless” and would not be upheld in a state court.

“The truth is, if the WGA leadership actually believed packaging was illegal, they would have welcomed the court’s upcoming decision on the validity of their claims,” ICM said in a statement.

“But they know their claims are legally and factually wrong. Knowing this, they first sought a delay of the ruling until after their (internal) elections, and when that strategy failed, they withdrew their claims entirely.

“It is time for the WGA leadership to stop posturing and do their job – which is to negotiate a new agreement with the agencies that best serves their membership, in the face of industry consolidation that has created formidable behemoth entertainment conglomerates to negotiate with.”

Writers Guild of America West president David A Goodman defended the move: “Over the years the major agencies have repeatedly broken federal antitrust law by conspiring to fix the price of packaging fees.

“Their current campaign to preserve the packaging fee model by strong-arming smaller agencies also violates the law. We are simply asking the court to stop these agencies from illegally enriching themselves at the expense of writers.”

The WGA suit argues the agencies’ packaging fee model violates their fiduciary duty to their clients. The WGA said the model “constitutes a system of illegal kickbacks and price fixing under federal law.”

The WGA has been embroiled in tense negotiations with the ATA for more than four months.

In April, it asked many of its writers, including big names like Shonda Rhimes, David Simon and Damon Lindelof, to fire their agents who refused to sign its new code of conduct. That code bans packaging fees after one year and prohibits agency affiliations with corporate-related production entities.

WME launched its own lawsuit against the WGA in June after the latter rejected the ATA’s latest offer.


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