WGA Seeks Two-Month Delay in Court Hearing on Agency Fight

Dave McNary
·3 min read

The Writers Guild of America has asked for a two-month delay in the next hearing in the CAA-WME lawsuit against it from Dec. 18 to Feb. 12, 2021.

The agencies asked this week for U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte for an injunction that would require the WGA to drop its boycott of the agencies. CAA and WME have been unable to strike a deal with the guild that would allow writers to return to the agencies. The agencies have agreed to phase out collecting packaging fees over two years and to divest themselves of all but 20% of the ownership of affiliated production companies. But the WGA has balked over a timeline for divestiture, and the lack of a mechanism to ensure ongoing compliance with the 20% threshold.

The agencies are eager to strike an agreement because they are losing clients to UTA, which made a separate peace with the guild in July. With the talks stalled, CAA and WME are hoping that the injunction motion will put pressure on the guild to come to terms quickly.

In a motion filed Thursday, the WGA told Birotte that the Dec. 18 hearing date is too soon.

“Without the requested continuance, the Guilds’ opposition brief will be due a week from tomorrow, during a holiday week that the Agencies have long known involves long planned unavailability of the Guilds’ counsel,” the guild’s lawyers wrote. “The Agencies did not notify the Guilds before filing their motion or attempt to work out any schedule, and the Guilds’ efforts to meet and confer with the Agencies to reach agreement on a mutually acceptable schedule were unsuccessful.”

“In fact, there is no emergency justifying an extraordinarily compressed time schedule to litigate whether the Agencies should be granted the full relief they have requested in this case,” the filing also said. “The status quo that the Agencies ask this Court to upend has existed for 19 months prior to the filing of the Agencies’ motions, and the Agencies have identified no new or different harm that they will face if that status quo is allowed to continue for the short additional time period necessary for the Guilds to prepare adequate oppositions to the Agencies’ motions.”

A WME spokesperson said in response to the filing, “Well, it should not come as a surprise but the WGA has once again asked for a delay. Delay and stall is their approach.”

The guild directed its members to fire their agents in April 2019, after the agencies refused to accept a new code of conduct, which banned packaging fees and limited ownership of affiliate productions on the grounds that the practices represented an unacceptable conflict of interest. CAA and WME have argued that the WGA boycott is illegal under federal antitrust law. A trial has been set for August.

WGA West executive director David Young has been accused of threatening to “kill” WME veteran Rick Rosen during a phone call in August, according to WME’s recent filing. A spokesman for the WGA denied the allegation.

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