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Drama Awards 2019

William Morris Endeavor sues WGA

William Morris Endeavor (WME) has launched a lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in the escalating dispute between Hollywood agents and the scribes many of them represent.

The agency, which along with CAA, UTA and ICM Partners, is among members of the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA), has accused the WGA of “wanton abuse of union authority” in a filing with the Los Angeles district court.

The WGA and ATA have been at loggerheads over the past few months, unable to agree new working practices between them, and WME now alleges the former has acted “in violation of antitrust law.”

The WGA last week rejected the ATA’s latest offer of a five-year pact, including a proposal that would see WGA members receive around 2% of revenue from packaging – the process of bundling talent and bringing projects together for TV shows – double the 1% initially offered.

But the WGA has been seeking to do away with agency packaging deals altogether and called for agency-affiliated production companies to be dispensed with too. The WGA even launched its own lawsuit against the ATA, claiming the practice of packaging is illegal. Now WME has hit back with its own suit.

“The WGA negotiating committee has made it clear both through its legal action and unwillingness to negotiate that it was never interested in making a reasonable deal,” said the agency.

“We are now left to seek a legal remedy for this dispute. While we wish we were not in this position, we will not capitulate to a leadership group that limits the choices and opportunities available to our clients, and has made repeated attempts to undermine our business.”

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 in April after ATA members including WME refused to sign its proposed new code.

“WGA leadership has engaged in an unprecedented abuse of union authority that has pushed their guilds beyond the protection of the labour exemptions,” said WME in its suit. “Their tactics are unlawful, and WGA’s outright bans on agency packaging and content affiliates do not serve any legitimate union interest.”

The WGA remains defiant, however, and responded to the latest twist by saying that there was no basis to WME’s claims.

“History repeats itself,” the organisation said in a statement. “In 1975, the William Morris Agency sued the guild for antitrust violations in response to the WGA’s campaign to prohibit packaging fees. A federal judge made an initial ruling in the WGA’s favour. There is no merit to WME’s lawsuit and the guild will not be bullied into a bad deal.”

The developments come as WME offshoot Endeavor gears up for its own stock market flotation, which could value the company at up to US$10bn. The WGA yesterday raised questions about the number of clients Endeavor counted in its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, as a result of the ongoing stand-off with writers.

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Drama Awards 2019
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