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Association of Talent Agencies Threatens Writers Guild of America With an Action Based on the WGA's Undertaking to Pay Lawyers and Managers Who Negotiate Agreements

By Marc Jacobson

We recently posted a blog regarding the Writers Guild of America's (WGA) undertaking to pay managers or agents who negotiate agreements on behalf of writers, during the period in which writers have discharged their agents, as suggested by the WGA, as a result of the conflict of interests that agencies seem to have. See, http://bit.ly/2UFIAOi posted April 17, 2019.

Now, trade publications are noting that the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA), in a letter to its members, is suggesting that the WGA is offering to "pay third parties to violate a law that has protected writers for 80 years..." (Emphasis in original) http://bit.ly/2IucyhS

As mentioned in the original post, it seems that the issue about whether a lawyer is entitled to earn a fee only arises when the writer objects to the payment. If the writer doesn't object, and pays the lawyer, neither the lawyer nor the writer faces any exposure. Only the Labor Commissioner in California can address this issue, and that will only arise when the writer is disgruntled. Similarly, the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City will have the same kind of authority. Again, why would the WGA agree to pay the manager or lawyer, on behalf of its member who is disgruntled with the representation?

This letter writing campaign has not yet resulted in litigation, possibly for that reason. The WGA did file suit against the ATA and its members, with regard to this conflict of interest, and that case is pending. Yet this issue, although of great interest to lawyers who represent writers, has not yet resulted in litigation.

I think, and it seems that many of our colleagues agree, that the better result is an amendment of the statute in both New York and California. However, as set out in the ATA letter, the ATA is taking the position, as presented by Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins, that "there are multiple decisions from the California Labor Commissioner holding that no one other than a licensed talent agent -not a manager, not an attorney--can procure employment on behalf of an artist."

For me, this highlights the need for legislation.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 19, 2019 1:51 PM.

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