William Morris Endeavor announced on Tuesday that it has sent a new proposed franchise agreement to the Writers Guild of America West with the hopes of ending the 20-month packaging fee dispute that has left the agency without thousands of writer clients.
“WME has updated the terms of our proposal and submitted it to the WGA in a good-faith effort to jumpstart our discussions. We want to find a way forward with the Guild and return to representing our writer-clients. We are willing and available to meet with the Guild as soon as possible, including over the holidays, in order to reach a resolution,” the statement reads.
WME is the last remaining major agency to not yet sign a franchise agreement with WGA to allow them to represent writers again. Earlier this month, Creative Artists Agency signed a franchise agreement after months of disputes and legal threats over the finer details of the agreement. Specifically, the Writers Guild sought stronger details on how CAA and its parent company, TPG, would divest part of its ownership stake in affiliate production studio Wiip in order to meet the franchise agreement’s guidelines that franchised agencies cannot hold more than 20% ownership in a production outlet.
As part of the agreement, CAA and TPG agreed to place its ownership of Wiip in a blind trust until the ownership stake was sold down to 20%. It is not yet clear whether WME will be required to use a similar process with its ownership in affiliate studio Endeavor Content or what other disclosures WME agents will be required to notify their agents of when making deals involving any studios it or its parent company Endeavor hold a minority stake in.
WME will also be required to phase out packaging fees by June 30, 2022, per the agreement signed by United Talent Agency and ICM Partners earlier this year. The Writers Guild has long maintained that packaging fees and affiliate studios are conflicts of interest that encourage agencies to prioritize clients and deals that can bring in the highest fees from studios who want them as part of packages for upcoming projects. After over 7,300 members approved in a March 2019 vote, WGA ordered all members to terminate representation with any studio that continued to accept packaging fees. Should WME reach a deal with WGA, it will signal a major labor victory for the guild as it ends a practice that has been used by Hollywood agencies for decades.
WGA West did not immediately respond to requests for comment.