Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit.

Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That gave the guild a win in its standoff with the largest agencies over the issue of packaging fees and ownership of production companies.

In a letter sent to her members Wednesday, Karen Stuart, the executive director of the Association of Talent Agents, warned other member agencies against signing the code by asserting that it gives the WGA too much power.

“The WGA is trying to position this modified Code as a ‘negotiated’ agreement, when it is in fact the same unilateral mandate that gives the guild authority to control your agency’s business,” she said. “This includes limiting your clients’ creative and economic options and requiring agencies to provide clients’ confidential information, among other significant restrictions. The Code is unquestionably not in the best interests of agencies or the writers they represent.”

Stuart led the agencies at talks that resulted in a near-complete failure to negotiate a deal with the WGA after more than two months of formal talks over efforts to revamp the 43-year-old rules governing how agents represent WGA members. Instead, the ATA has resorted to taking potshots blaming the guild and alleging that the WGA never wanted to make a deal.

No new negotiations have been scheduled. Hollywood is waiting to see if any other agencies will join Verve, by far the most prominent and largest agency among the nearly 70 that have agreed to the Code of Conduct so far.

The WGA’s campaign to ban packaging fees and affiliate ownership includes a lawsuit, filed by the guild on April 17 against the four largest agencies (CAA, WME, UTA and ICM Partners) and amended on May 20. The guild directed its nearly 15,000 members on April 12, when negotiations cratered, to terminate relations with agents that refuse to sign the guild’s new Code of Conduct.

Stuart also sent out a memo Wednesday from ATA’s attorneys at Latham and Watkins which said, “The Verve agreement continues to include a number of concerning provisions, separate and apart from packaging and affiliates.”

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