The nation’s three major personal manager associations said Monday they’re not backing SAG-AFTRA’s Personal Manager Code of Ethics and Conduct and that it was developed and adopted without “credibility, sincerity or truthfulness.”
The code “adversely affects the needs of personal managers, their artist clients and the entertainment industry,” according to a joint statement issued by the Music Managers Forum – US, the National Conference of Personal Managers and the Talent Managers Association.
SAG-AFTRA earlier this month unveiled the code, a set of voluntary guidelines the union said was designed to promote honest and ethical relationships between its members and their managers. The guidelines draw distinctions between the role of managers and agents and say managers should not also be agents and that managers should help members find agents. Additionally, it calls on them to agree to arbitrate disputes through SAG-AFTRA, among other things.
Managers must agree to preconditions before signing on. Those who do will have their name and information listed on the SAG-AFTRA web site, just as current franchised agents are listed online.
“Not only is their Code too disruptive to a manager’s ability to work with and communicate with artists, it includes SAG-AFTRA’s own legal interpretation of laws relating to managers and agents that would discourage managers from taking on developmental clients, especially those without agency representation,” the groups said.
“Further, SAG-AFTRA has no vetting process, allowing anyone to receive approval despite a poor reputation, history of poor service or worse.”
SAG-AFTRA fired back hours later.
“It is not surprising that these trade associations resist regulation that is designed for consumer protection. Nonetheless, that is what is needed and it is long overdue. This is an area that is rife with abuse and our members both need and deserve the strongest possible protections consistent with the law — just like they have in any other industry,” the union said in a statement.
“The Code reflects the interests and support of SAG-AFTRA members and a number of professional managers who also lent their expertise to its development. We are moving forward because we know this is the right thing for the industry and the artists we represent and protect.”
The opposition isn’t new. Both the Association of Talent Managers and the National Conference of Personal Managers opposed the code soon after it was unveiled. The NCOPM commissioned a survey, which showed overwhelming opposition to the measure. SAG-AFTRA maintains that it is not attempting to “certify” or “franchise” personal managers, and that the intention is to create a blueprint document that tracks union regulations and state law to help our members navigate these key relationships.
The primary goal, the union said, is ‘to provide members a series of documents to which they can refer when seeking out the services of a personal manager in any state.”
Among the stickiest provisions in the Code are those that involve “procurement” — or finding jobs for actors. It’s often a fine line as to where deal-making begins and personal managing ends, and the involvement of agents and lawyers can further complicate matters.
There is a case pending in which talent managers have sought to strike down a California law that prohibits them from making deals for their clients. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson last year threw out a suit challenging the state’s Talent Agencies Act that was filed by the National Conference of Personal Managers, who claimed among other things that the state’s ban on unlicensed managers from “procuring” employment was “unconstitutionally vague.” That dismissal is now under appeal in the 9th Circuit court.
SAG-AFTRA has two franchised talent agency agreements, but had never formally established a working relationship with the personal management industry, though when it released the Code, it changed the name of its Agency Relations Department to the Professional Representatives Department.