In a major win for the WGA, the guild has signed Kaplan Stahler Agency to a negotiated franchise agreement banning packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production companies. Kaplan Stahler now becomes the first mid-tier agency to break ranks with the Association of Talent Agents and sign a modified version of the guild’s Code of Conduct. “Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with all unsigned agencies.”
In a message to its members, the guild’s negotiating committee said that today’s deal includes “information-sharing” and “makes the agency the guild’s partner in enforcing late pay, free work and other contract violations. Kaplan Stahler now joins the list of agencies that can represent members for writing services.”
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The deal includes several changes to the proposal that the WGA sent to all unsigned agencies on June 27. The guild said that the “most-favored nations” clause in the agreement means that “any franchised agency may choose to adopt the terms of this agreement, in lieu of those it previously negotiated, if it so chooses.”
One of the modifications the guild agreed to addresses Kaplan Stahler’s concerns about “meeting their fiduciary duty to follow an individual client’s directives on disclosure of financial information,” the guild said. “In today’s agreement, the agency will be required to provide writers’ contracts, invoices and deal memos to the guild unless a writer files a written objection.”
This also had been a concern of the Abrams Artists Agency, which had had tried but failed to reach a deal with the guild. According to the guild, the Kaplan Stahler deal will allow it and other signatories to send “any such written objection to the WGA, as well as notify the WGA each time it finalizes a contract, deal memo, or invoice for that writer client. The WGA would then have sufficient information to enforce Working Rule 3, which says members are required to file their contracts with the Guild within one week of receiving them.”
Other changes negotiated with Kaplan Stahler include a five-year term instead of a three-year term and two additional named arbitrators. These too are known to have been roadblocks to some of the mid-sized agencies signing the guild’s Code of Conduct – and could open the floodgates to other signings, though none of the Big 4 agencies is expected to follow suit.
“Kaplan Stahler is pleased to announce that it has entered into a new Franchise Agreement with the Writers Guild of America with a term ending April 12, 2024,” The agency said in a statement today. ‘The Franchise Agreement will allow Kaplan Stahler to return to representing its clients in a manner that both accommodates and supports the interests of the Guild and its members and preserves the Agency’s unfettered ability to fulfill its fiduciary duties to its clients. Critically, the Franchise Agreement that Kaplan Stahler has negotiated insures that nothing about its decades’ long, client-driven philosophy will change.”
The WGA has been at war with the major talent agencies since April 13, when it ordered all of its members to fire their agencies who refuse to sign its Code. To date, more than 7,000 writers have done so.