Escalating a war between Hollywood writers and talent agents, the Writers Guild of America Monday filed federal lawsuits in Los Angeles, alleging antitrust, racketeering and other violations against William Morris Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency and United Talent Agency.
The counterclaims, filed in Los Angeles federal court after the guild dismissed its suit in state court, stem from a months-long standoff between the guild and the talent agencies, and the WGA’s attempt to invalidate agencies’ packaging fees, which the union claims violate state and federal law.
The guild has requested that its members fire agents who refuse to sign a new code of conduct.
“Over the years the major agencies have repeatedly broken federal antitrust law by conspiring to fix the price of packaging fees,” said WGA West President David A. Goodman.
“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.”
Packaging fees are up-front funds paid by a studio to an agency representing multiple people — such as writers, actors or directors — on a particular series or production. The guild contends such fees hurt writers, often leading to agents earning more money on package deals than the writers themselves.
The suits seek a declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and request a judge’s order that the agencies provide an accounting of all packaging fee deals involving guild members. The guild is also seeking all profits generated from packaging fees.