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SAG-AFTRA Fires Back at Critics of New Managers Code of Ethics

The unions seeks to counter what it calls ”misinformation“ regarding its new voluntary guidelines

SAG-AFTRA late Wednesday sent a directive to its members to clarify details and the intent of its newly issued guidelines for personal managers, after their release Tuesday drew a barrage of criticism.

On Tuesday, the union unveiled its long-in-the-works Personal Manager Code of Ethics and Conduct and quickly drew fire from the Talent Managers Association and others. The TMA, which had consulted with SAG-AFTRA when the guild was crafting the guidelines, even urged managers to not sign the voluntary code.

The union didn’t single that group out, but did say in its message that there was “intensive and, in some cases, wildly uninformed lobbying going on from special interests within the personal management community. Their communications have even reached the level of direct misrepresentations being sent to union members in an attempt to frighten them about the true intent of this code.”

Also read: SAG-AFTRA Unveils Code of Ethics for Personal Managers (Updated)

The guidelines, which come out draw distinctions between the role of managers and agents; navigating the nuances of representation is often tricky terrain for actors, particularly those starting out.

The code requires, among other things, that if a manager uses written contracts, the duration of the contract must be limited to 18 months for the initial term and 3 years for renewals; contracts, if any, cannot auto-renew; managers cannot collect up-front or advance fees; they must not require the actor to use the services of any particular photographer, printer, school, acting coach or other professional in which the manager has a financial interest; and they must not solicit or procure work for an actor except to the extent permitted by California or New York State law.

In its message to members, the union sought to reinforce several aspects of the code and clarify some of its fine points.

Also read: Writers Guild, Studios and Networks Head Back to Negotiations

“The voluntary nature of the plan means that if it does not fit a manager’s business model, he or she is free to continue to represent SAG-AFTRA members outside of the union’s protection/jurisdiction,” the union said. “Importantly, the Code is only meant to apply to managers’ relationships with union members — managers who are signed to the Code may, indeed, have different relationships with non-union performers outside of the Code’s coverage.”

The message also urged members to review the code, which has been online in draft form since November, and directed them to a facts page on the union website.

Some of the managers who have objected to the guidelines note the TMA already has a code of ethics it operates under, but the stickiest provisions seems to be those that involve “procurement” — or finding jobs for clients. 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 business. Its Agency Relations Department will now be known as the Professional Representatives Department.