Writers Guild: Top Agencies Made ‘Multiple Misrepresentations’ in Packaging Fees Case

WGA makes accusation in motion to reinstate cancelled discovery hearing

Last Updated: May 7, 2020 @ 2:30 PM

The Writers Guild of America has accused the three top agencies it has been locked in a legal battle with — WME, CAA and UTA — of making “multiple misrepresentations” to the judge presiding over its packaging fee case.

The accusation was made in a filing obtained by TheWrap in which lawyers for the guild and its individual claimants that requested the reinstatement of a canceled hearing on May 19 to determine the scope of documents that could be requested for discovery. The hearing was canceled two days after U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte dismissed multiple key claims in the WGA’s lawsuit against the agencies, only allowing them to proceed to trial on state claims of price-fixing, and on claims by individual plaintiffs for breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition and breach of contract.

The WGA is accusing the agencies of “misrepresenting” the dismissal ruling in an effort to reduce the number of documents that can be requested in discovery. “They contend, for example, that the Guilds’ breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, and Unfair Competition Law claims were dismissed ‘with prejudice,’ but those claims were actually dismissed with leave to amend,” the guild’s filing read.

“The Agencies contend that their change in position is justified by Judge Birotte’s April 27 order granting in part and denying in part their motion to dismiss, but the parties were well aware at all times that the Agencies’ motion to dismiss Counterclaimants’ counterclaims was pending, and the parties had agreed that only 16 discovery requests would be stayed pending the resolution of that motion.”

The WGA says that the documents from agencies that they wish to acquire through discovery will  serve as “evidence that agent misconduct was not rare” and that “conflicts of interest created by packaging frequently harm writers.”

The Writers Guild of America has been in a yearlong battle with WME, CAA and UTA in an effort to eliminate packaging fees — payments from a studio to an agency in exchange for packaging talent for a project — arguing that it is a conflict of interest. The agencies have filed their own lawsuit against the Writers Guild, accusing them of participating in an “illegal boycott” by ordering its members to terminate their representation with any agency that does not eliminate packaging fees. The case is set to go to trial in March 2021.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.