Abrams Artists Agency has come to terms with the Writers Guild of America and will sign the guild’s Code of Conduct requiring them to eliminate packaging fees, four months after talks between the two sides fell through.
In April, WGA implemented a new Code of Conduct for agents designed to end practices it says are conflicts of interest: Packaging, where agencies bundle talent and projects together and bring them to studio as a package, for which the agency collects a fee; and affiliate production, in which a studio partly owned by the agency is involved in a packaged project. Thousands of writers terminated their representation shortly after the Code went into effect, and since then a small handful of agencies have signed on to the Code.
The Association of Talent Agents, which represents top agencies like WME and CAA along with dozens of other agencies, has remained staunchly opposed to eliminating packaging fees. But Abrams’ signing makes it the largest ATA-affiliated agency to reach a deal with the WGA. Other agencies that have signed the Code include Kaplan Stahler, Buchwald, and Verve, the last of which is not affiliated with the ATA.
This past summer, the WGA and Abrams entered talks to have the agency join the list of those approved to represent writers, but talks fell through after, among other reasons, Abrams objected to how information would be shared with the guild and whether it would violate client confidentiality. Abrams Chairman Adam Bold said in a statement that those issues have now been resolved.
“The WGA has strengthened their language about confidentiality and data security to make sure that our clients’ contract information stays private,” he said. “They are going to use heightened security protocols, and limit access to staff within the guild who have a valid business reason to have access to the information.”
The WGA has reopened the possibility of talks with smaller agencies since President David A. Goodman was re-elected in a landslide vote in this past September’s election. The election had the highest voter turnout in WGA history, with Goodman receiving 79% of all ballots received.
“The writers had elections, and they overwhelmingly reelected David Goodman, one of the leaders of this strategy. We feel that it is time to put the writers back to work, as well as our agents,” Bold said. “The code of conduct as it stands now, is a much better document than it was before. For that reason, along with some of our negotiated changes, made it an agreement that we can stand behind.”
Meanwhile, the studio continues its legal battle against the top agencies — WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners — as it attempts to get a judge to declare that packaging fees are a violation of labor law. CAA, UTA, and WME, meanwhile, have consolidated their lawsuits against WGA into a single action accusing the WGA of engaging in an illegal boycott by ordering their members to terminate their representation.
A representative for the WGA confirmed the deal but declined further comment.