WGA Accepts Offer to Resume Talks With Talent Agencies

The Writers Guild ended its agreement with the Association of Talent Agents due to a dispute over packaging

Last Updated: May 22, 2019 @ 9:24 PM

Writers Guild of America West president David Goodman has accepted an offer from UTA co-president Jay Sures to resume talks between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents over a new franchise agreement.

An exact date has not been set, though Sures suggested that talks resume next week. The new talks come six weeks after the WGA and ATA broke off talks despite extending the deadline of the previous agreement between them to reach a deal on new rules regarding the practice of packaging and production companies affiliated with major agencies like Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor. The WGA considers both to be a conflict of interest and a violation of agents’ fiduciary duty to their clients.

After talks broke off, thousands of WGA members terminated their representation with agencies in response to their refusal to agree to the Guild’s newly approved Code of Conduct, which required agencies to eliminate packaging fees in order to represent WGA members. Then, on April 17, the WGA filed a lawsuit against the four largest agencies in Hollywood — WME, CAA, UTA, and ICM Partners — arguing that packaging fees were a breach of fiduciary duty. A constructive fraud claim was added to the lawsuit earlier this week.

Despite the lawsuit, Sures extended an olive branch to Goodman and the WGA on Wednesday, saying that the agencies are ready and willing to return to the negotiating table.

“If this dispute is truly about addressing Packaging and Affiliate Production, then we are ready to get back to the table with you,” Sures wrote to Goodman. “We are open to concepts of true revenue sharing and have already committed to requirements of explicit client consent and overall transparency and accountability. To be clear, we have publicly stated that if a writer does not want his/her show packaged, we will honor that.

“Let’s put an end to this unnecessary and extremely costly litigation that is a great detriment to your membership and the agencies.”

“Thank you for your offer to meet, which I accept on behalf of the WGA,” read Goodman’s response. “I do want to make clear that we responded on April 12th to your most recent proposal. We continue to believe that there is a deal to be made that aligns agency interests with those of writers. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.”

Read Sures’ offer here:

Dear David-

As a longtime client (now former client) of UTA, and as someone I have spoken to along the way in the WGA/ATA dispute, I thought I would reach out once again in an attempt to figure out a path to a resolution to this mess. It has been over a month since we all sat across from one another at the negotiating table for what I thought was a sincere good faith negotiation.

What I have heard from many of your members is that they want us back at the negotiating table. They want a deal and they want one now. Many feel this fight has gone on too long with those that didn’t have existing jobs or overall deals feeling like they are at a disadvantage to those that did. Feature writers are being burdened unfairly. I know you have gotten many of those notes from members, because those very same notes have been forwarded to me and my agent colleagues with the passionate pleas to come to terms on a new agreement.

So we now find ourselves at a crossroads. The lawsuit that your guild filed a month ago and amended this week is a reality. By law, we must respond to it and we will. We will be forced to defend ourselves, our reputations, our hard work, and our integrity with everything we have. I know you would do the same if the roles were reversed.

We have acknowledged concerns in the areas of Packaging and Affiliated Production and put forth a comprehensive Agency Standards for Client Representation that focuses on client choice, transparency and universally accepted standards of dispute resolution through independent and unbiased arbitration. We never received a response to this comprehensive proposal. If this dispute is truly about addressing Packaging and Affiliate Production, then we are ready to get back to the table with you. We are open to concepts of true revenue sharing and have already committed to requirements of explicit client consent and overall transparency and accountability. To be clear, we have publicly stated that if a writer does not want his/her show packaged, we will honor that. Let’s put an end to this unnecessary and extremely costly litigation that is a great detriment to your membership and the agencies.

We should be by your sides fighting for the things writers need and deserve in your upcoming AMPTP negotiation. So, in that spirit, let’s get in a smaller room next week and put ALL the issues on the table. Our group will be there. Please try to get yours. If possible let’s plan on next Wednesday at one of our previous meeting locations. Many people are depending on us to get everyone working again. I look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,

Jay

And Goodman’s response:

Jay,

Thank you for your offer to meet, which I accept on behalf of the WGA. I do want to make clear that we responded on April 12th to your most recent proposal (see attached). We continue to believe that there is a deal to be made that aligns agency interests with those of writers. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Best,

David Goodman

Goodman’s April 12 letter can be read in full here.

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