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‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit: AMC Calls CAA’s Work for Frank Darabont a ‘Classic Breach of Fiduciary Duty’ (Exclusive)

CAA says AMC is using the fight between writers and agents ”to concoct a smokescreen to mask its own wrongful conduct“

AMC says the current fight between writers and agents helps make its case against original “Walking Dead” showrunner Frank Darabont, with whom the network is locked in a long legal fight.

The Writers Guild of America has used “The Walking Dead” as an example of an agency — CAA — putting its interests ahead of those of a client, Darabont. An attorney for AMC agreed with the WGA.

“The conflict of interest between CAA and Frank Darabont is central to our case,” attorney Orin Snyder told TheWrap. “CAA negotiated a lucrative packaging deal for themselves for ‘The Walking Dead’ that was better than the deal they negotiated for Mr. Darabont. This was a classic breach of fiduciary duty and why the WGA points to our case as Exhibit A of how talent agencies take advantage of their clients.”

CAA, meanwhile, accused AMC of opportunistically seizing on the current dispute between writers and agents.

“AMC is never at a loss to concoct a smokescreen to mask its own wrongful conduct toward Mr. Darabont and the other profit participants on ‘The Walking Dead.’ But their most recent argument is unquestionably the most far-fetched, opportunistic, and desperate,” said Dale Kinsella, an attorney for both Darabont and CAA, in a statement to TheWrap.

“The WGA’s recently filed action against various talent agencies is utterly irrelevant to Mr. Darabont’s claims that IT — AMC –wrongfully schemed to deprive the participants of what they are rightfully owed,” Kinsella added. “It is exactly this type of conduct by AMC and others that has deprived many WGA members of untold millions in compensation over the years.  Moreover, it is telling that until the recent dispute between the WGA and agencies came to the fore, AMC never suggested — over five years of litigation — that CAA did anything other than zealously fight for its clients.”

CAA and Darabont sued AMC in 2013 over profits from the hit TV show, after Darabont was fired during the show’s second season. They filed a second suit against AMC in 2018.

Darabont says that because AMC both produces and airs the series, the network committed “improper and abusive… self-dealing.”

The WGA is fighting with agents over packaging fees — money paid to an agency for bundling talent for a film or TV project presented to a studio. In a report last month, the WGA criticized CAA’s handling of Darabont’s contract with AMC, citing details pulled from his lawsuits.

The WGA says that packaging fees for “The Walking Dead” were in negotiations before a contract was finalized with Darabont. The agency also negotiated packaging fees for the spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead,” which premiered in 2015.

Darabont’s deal called for profit participation from “The Walking Dead” that would vest after two years — meaning he had to be working on the series for two seasons, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation. But since he was fired toward the beginning of Season 2 production, that option didn’t vest.

But the WGA notes that CAA’s profit participation vested immediately.