In April, after months of failed negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents, the WGA sued several big talent agencies, like William Morris Endeavor, alleging that the packaging fees from studios that talent agencies receive amounted to an illegal kickback under federal and state statutes including California’s Unfair Competition Law. The Guild is seeking to implement a ban on the practice of agencies receiving packaging fees from production entities along with barring agencies from having ownership interests in production companies that creates an illegal conflict of interest. That same month, the WGA instructed its 15,000 members to fire their agents after large talent agencies refused to sign the WGA’s new Code of Conduct that would end the practice of packaging fees. Nearly 7,000 writers have fired their agents so-far, and 1,700 of those members specifically dropped from United Talent Agency (UTA).
The UTA this week joined William Morris Endeavor in a lawsuit against the WGA’s bargaining committee over these actions. UTA and WME claim that the boycott prohibits competition and violates the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. The Sherman Antitrust Act regulates competition between enterprises and prohibits anti-competitive agreements. For UTA, this means that the boycott is illegal and exceeds the union’s authority under the antitrust laws. The United Talent Agency wants a court to bar the Guild from employing the Code of Conduct, whereas the WGA promises to bring more evidence of misconduct by UTA and other big talent agencies to light in the next few days.
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