WME has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America, accusing the guild of engaging in an illegal group boycott in its campaign to prevent talent agencies from collecting packaging fees.
WME’s complaint against the WGA West and WGA East accused the unions of conspiring to unreasonably restrict competition by implementing its Agency Code of Conduct in April. The battle between the WGA and Hollywood’s largest talent agencies led to thousands of film and TV writers firing their talent agents in April, and it sparked a lawsuit filed in California state court against WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners.
WME asserts that the WGA has engaged in a "concerted refusal to deal" that violates the antitrust exceptions in federal law that are offered to collective bargaining organizations. WME is seeking an injunction on the WGA's enforcement of its Code of Conduct as well as undetermined damages.
WME's litigation against the guild comes four days after the WGA ended negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents over the new rules the guild has sought to implement to ban the practice of agencies receiving packaging fees from production entities. The guild asserts that packaging fees and agency ties to production outfits are a conflict of interest that has hurt the earning power of writers over the long term.
WME asserts that the WGA's effort to ban a practice that the guild expressly allowed for more than 40 years amounts to an abuse of its power as a union.
“We took today’s step with careful consideration,” WME said in a statement. “The WGA negotiating committee has made it clear both through its legal action and unwillingness to negotiate that it was never interested in making a reasonable deal. We are now left to seek a legal remedy for this dispute. While we wish we were not in this position, we will not capitulate to a leadership group that limits the choices and opportunities available to our clients, and has made repeated attempts to undermine our business.”