CAA is challenging the Writers Guild of America’s standing to bring forth a lawsuit against the talent agency, arguing that under California law, the WGA can’t pursue what it says is unfair competition as a collective bargaining organization on behalf of its union members.
“The WGA does not allege that it has a fiduciary relationship with CAA. Instead, the WGA asserts a breach of fiduciary duty claim on behalf of the individual plaintiffs and all unnamed members of the WGA who have ever been represented by CAA. The law prohibits such a claim,” CAA said in a memo filed on Thursday, alongside an amended complaint. “The WGA lacks standing to bring a cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty or constructive fraud on behalf of its 15,000 member-writers based on alleged violations by agents in connection with unknown thousands of unique transactions over a multi-decade period.”
The WGA did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
The guild filed a civil lawsuit against Hollywood’s top four talent agencies, which includes UTA, CAA, WME and ICM Partners, in April asserting that the decades-old practice of agencies collecting packaging fees violate California fiduciary law by “severing the relationship between writers’ compensation and what the agency receives in fees.”
Lawyers for the WGA also argued that packaging fees violate the Taft-Hartley Act, which states that any representative of an employee cannot receive money from the employer.
In addition to the WGA, the lawsuit named eight writers as plaintiffs, including “The Wire” creator David Simon, “Madam Secretary” creator Barbara Hall and “Cold Case” creator Meredith Stiehm, who also serves as the co-chair of the negotiating committee for the WGAW and sits on the guild’s board. Patti Carr (“Reign”), Ashley Gable (“The Mentalist”), Deric Hughes (“Arrow”), Chip Johannessen (“Homeland”), Deirdre Mangan (“iZombie”) are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
CAA, which is the only agency to respond to the WGA’s lawsuit, said in its filing that each of the guild’s roughly 15,000 members would have to individually prove that each accused agent engaged in a breach of duty, by concealing information about packaging, otherwise unknown to the writer.
To that end, CAA states in its filing that six of the plaintiffs in the WGA’s lawsuit were aware that the agency was receiving packaging fees for the TV series on which their clients worked. David Simon, CAA says, became aware of packaging fees related to the show “Homicide” 19 years ago and that the statute of limitations has run out, though he did complain to the agency.
Of the writers, however, the agency said never asked that CAA instead take the customary 10% commission rather than the packaging fee.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.