CAA Co-Chair Bryan Lourd on Writers Guild Conflict: ‘I Hate How This Has Gone’

Agency remains in legal battle with WGA over packaging fees

Last Updated: August 12, 2020 @ 9:28 PM

During a keynote Q&A for the UCLA Entertainment Symposium, Creative Artists Agency Co-Chair and managing partner Bryan Lourd opened up about the more-than-year-long conflict between his agency and the Writers Guild of America over the future of packaging fees.

Lourd spoke with Ziffren Brittenham partner Ken Ziffren, who asked him about his thoughts on the future of the relationship between writers, their guild and CAA. While Lourd didn’t discuss the ongoing lawsuits that CAA and WGA have filed against each other, he expressed regret at how the dispute has stretched out into a pandemic that has made times for the entertainment industry even more difficult.

“With zero sort of apology, I hate how this has gone; I don’t like anything about it,” said Lourd. “We never wanted to be in conflict with them, I don’t want to be in conflict with them now. We’re not holding out, I hope we do make a deal. We want to make a deal. We want to have a conversation about about what we know from the street about what is actually going on in their members lives and what the opportunities are.”

“We have not had the opportunity to do that, which is something I think most people don’t know. I think we will, and I expect in the near future that we won’t be suing each other. But that’s up to them.”

CAA, along with William Morris Endeavor, has sued the WGA on claims that it started an illegal boycott by having thousands of members terminate representation with any agency that did not agree to terminate packaging fees. The guild filed its own lawsuit against the agencies that included charges of racketeering and claims that the agencies violated their fiduciary duty to clients.

While a federal district judge dismissed several key charges in the guild’s lawsuit in April, the WGA has since made critical deals to phase out packaging fees with ICM Partners and United Talent Agency, the latter of which was also involved in the agency lawsuit against the guild. In exchange for some concessions, including on minority ownership of production studios, the two major agencies agreed to phase out packaging fees in the next two years and to withdraw from the lawsuit. UTA and ICM Partners are now permitted to represent WGA members again, with CAA and WME remaining holdouts.

In addition, Judge Andre Birotte also denied on Thursday a motion by the two agencies to have the remaining charges in the WGA lawsuit dismissed. The dueling suits are still set to go to trial, which was postponed to August 2021 due to the pandemic.

“We are pleased with today’s ruling of the court to deny WME and CAA’s motion to dismiss our claims,” said guild president David A. Goodman in a statement. “Our goal since the beginning of this campaign has been to realign agencies’ interests with those of their writer clients. As this case moves forward we are confident that the evidence uncovered through discovery will prove the agencies’ breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law that we’ve detailed in our lawsuit.”

Lourd told Ziffren during the keynote that he believes that his agency and the WGA have “a very different way of looking at where the industry is going.”

“There is a way of thinking about things that is in the past, as opposed to what’s possible in the future,” he said. “And I want us to at least have our day in court to be able to explain what we know, and hope that we can get to some situation that’s better for them and us.”