UPDATE: 2:57 PM PT — Updated with statement from WGA and details on agreement
Creative Artists Agency and Writers Guild of America West announced on Wednesday that they have reached a deal on a new franchise agreement that will allow writers to be represented by the agency after a nearly two-year standoff.
“CAA and the WGA have concluded and signed a franchise agreement confirming CAA can resume representing writers and continue the important work of helping them realize their ambitions. We end this year of unprecedented global challenges with the optimism and energy that today’s news brings, starting now, and for the years ahead,” a CAA spokesperson said Wednesday.
“The Guild appreciates the hard work of both CAA and [parent company] TPG in working through the complicated issues involved in this negotiation,” WGA’s negotiating committee said in its own statement an hour later.
William Morris Endeavor remains the only agency that have not signed a new franchise agreement agreeing to phase out packaging fees and limit ownership in affiliate production studios to 20%, terms that the guild says are necessary to avoid conflicts of interests between agents and the studios they negotiate with on behalf of writers. Affiliate studios have been the major hurdle over the past few months as CAA and WME have significant stakes in affiliate production companies, as the WGA has requested more information about the timetable the two agencies will adopt to adhere to the 20% limit as well as additional information about the agencies’ corporate structure.
In the memo confirming the deal, WGA says that CAA and TPG Capital, which owns a majority stake in the agency, will place their ownership share of Wiip in a blind trust until the trustee sells that share down to the 20% limit mandated in the agreement before an undisclosed deadline. CAA agents will also disclose to clients if they are making a deal with a production studio that a TPG entity, such as an investment firm, has more than 20% ownership stake in and provide the guild with copies of deals made with such studios.
The guild has come a long way from the ruling handed down by federal judge Andre Birotte Jr. back in April that dismissed many key aspects of its lawsuit against CAA, WME and UTA claiming that packaging fees were a violation of federal labor laws. Handed down nearly a year to the day that the WGA ordered its members to terminate representation with any agency that did not eliminate packaging fees, the ruling was considered a major blow to the guild’s efforts.
But the severe financial damage inflicted on agencies by the COVID-19 pandemic changed the conflict entirely. With productions shut down for much of the spring and summer and live events shut down for even longer, many of the revenue streams agencies rely on quickly dried up. With writers standing as one of the very few segments of Hollywood still working, agencies returned to the negotiating table with the WGA.
Over the summer, ICM Partners and UTA signed off on a franchise agreement that agreed to phase out packaging fees by the end of June 2022, with UTA agreeing to withdraw itself from a lawsuit filed with CAA and WME claiming that the WGA had participated in an illegal boycott by having its writers terminate representation. With the CAA deal completed and the agency also withdrawing from that lawsuit, a labor movement led by WGA West President David A. Goodman and Executive Director David Young is closer than ever to its goal.