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WME Says It’s In “Substantive Discussions” To End Standoff With WGA

David Robb
·3-min read

WME says it’s in “substantive discussions” with the WGA to end their 21-month battle over packaging fees and the agency’s affiliation with a related production entity, Endeavor Content.

“We are currently in substantive discussions with the WGA to resolve the ongoing dispute,” Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said in a statement. “The tenor of the conversation is positive, and we are working diligently with the WGA to move this forward as quickly as possible.

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The WGA did not respond to a request for comment.

WME is the last major talent agency that’s still not signed to the WGA’s franchise agreement. A deal would allow WME’s writer-clients to return to the agency. The WGA’s campaign to reshape the agenting business began in April 2019 when it ordered its members to fire their agents en masse who refused to sign its Code of Conduct, modified versions of which will now phase out packaging fees by 2022 and limit their ownership interests in affiliated production companies to just 20%.

On Dec. 18, U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr., who is presiding over their antitrust case, repeatedly urged WME and the union to settle their dispute before it goes to trial. “Come on folks. Get together. Get this done,” he told the lawyers who attended via Zoom.

A few days later, WME gave the WGA a proposal that updated the terms of a previous proposal, but the WGA rejected it on Dec. 29, saying, “WME has yet to grapple, in a serious way, with its own conflicts of interest.”

The next day, Birotte denied WME’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have ended the WGA’s boycott of the agency until the case can go to trial. It was a major legal victory for the WGA and added pressure on WME to settle the dispute and sign the WGA’s franchise agreement, as have all the other major talent agencies.

Judge Denies WME’s Request For Preliminary Injunction To End WGA Boycott; Major Legal Victory For Guild

The Directors Guild threw its support to the WGA on Dec. 31 when DGA national executive director Russell Hollander sent WME president Ari Greenburg a letter saying that the DGA has been “closely following the negotiations and litigation and believe now is the right time to communicate our strong support for the WGA’s efforts to remedy the affiliated production company issue.”

The WGA’s battle with the major agencies began in April 2018, when it notified the Association of Talent Agents of its intent to renegotiate its Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement, and a year later, writers voted overwhelmingly to terminate the agreement and all un-franchised agencies. Since then, the WGA has negotiated 10 successive versions of its franchise agreement to accommodate reasonable agency proposals – beginning in May 2019, when it signed Verve; again last summer, when it signed UTA and ICM, and last month when it signed CAA.

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