The WGA and WME have agreed to a six-month postponement of the trial their long-running anti-trust lawsuits against each other, saying in court filings that they “wish to have time to focus on settlement talks without jeopardizing the overall litigation schedule.” They also noted that “certain discovery disputes, motion practice, and the Covid-19 pandemic have created unforeseeable delays in the discovery process.”
The trail date had been set for August 24, but with the court’s permission, it now has been extended to Feb. 24, 2022. The WGA has declined comment, but the delay in the trial’s start date is an indication that a deal to end the dispute might be at hand.
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The delay comes a day after WME said that it’s been in “substantive discussions” with the guild to end their 21-month battle over packaging fees and the agency’s affiliation with its related production entity, Endeavor Content.
WME is the last of the major agencies not to have signed the guild’s franchise agreement, which phases out packaging fees by 2022 and limits the agencies’ 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.