November 20, 2020 5:54pm
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WGA; WME; CAA
A federal judge has denied the WGA’s request for an eight-week continuance of a hearing date on CAA’s and WME’s motions for a preliminary injunction that would force the guild to drop its group boycott against the agencies.
“We are gratified that the court denied the WGA’s request to delay the preliminary injunction hearing, and adopted the briefing schedule we and WME had proposed,” said Richard Kendall, CAA’s lead counsel on the case. “As we have repeatedly said, CAA is ready, willing, and able to meet with the WGA leadership and its counsel to work through any remaining issues to see if this matter can be resolved before the December 18 hearing that we requested. Otherwise, we look forward to meeting the WGA in court.”
CAA & WME Ask Judge To Deny WGA’s Request To Delay Hearing On Their Request To End Long-Running Dispute
Earlier this week, WGA attorney Casey Pitts asked U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. for the continuance, saying that “As counsel for CAA is aware, the timing of CAA and WME’s filing is extremely inconvenient for me. Since late January, my husband and I have planned to take off the week of Thanksgiving (Saturday, November 21 through Sunday, November 29) in order to celebrate a significant life milestone. I will not be working during that time. On November 5, 2020, during a phone call with CAA’s counsel Patrick Somers to discuss deposition timing, I informed Mr. Somers that I would be taking this time off. Many of my co-counsel are also unavailable next week. Stacey Leyton, Ethan Litwin, and Andrew Kushner will all be unavailable for portions of the holiday week.”
“Every minute that the Guilds engage in more delays, ignore court orders to mediate, and rebuff CAA’s agreement to the Guilds’ own terms, writers lose out,” CAA said in its motion filed today. “It is inexcusable that the Guilds still deny thousands of their own members the opportunity to benefit from the advocacy of their preferred agents in a challenging marketplace. CAA has agreed to stop packaging and has reduced its ownership in affiliate production to the level the Guilds insisted upon. What in the world are the WGA leaders legitimately protecting writers from at this point? The answer, of course, is that the Guilds’ leaders are not protecting writers, they are serving their own interests— ratcheting up their self-declared “power grab” from CAA and WME—in violation of the antitrust laws and at the irreparable expense of CAA and the Guilds’ own members. The Court should not countenance the Guilds’ delay strategy by postponing the hearing in the matter beyond the 28-day notice period that almost all preliminary injunction motions receive in this District. The Guilds’ ex parte application should be denied.”
The dispute arose in April 2019 when the WGA ordered its members to fire their agents who refused to sign the guild’s Code of Conduct, which banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production companies. Since then, every major agency except CAA and WME have signed a modified code that phases out packaging fees and reduces ownership interests of production companies to just 20%.
A WGA spokesman said: “We’re grateful the judge gave us adequate time to prepare our response to these motions.”
“WME is satisfied with the Court’s ruling,” the agency said in a statement, “which denied the Guild’s request for an extraordinary extension and instead, set a modified briefing schedule. We had made multiple proposals that would have given the Guilds a reasonable extension of time to oppose the motions in light of their cited scheduling issues, while at the same time permitting the hearing to go forward before the end of the year. The Guilds, per usual, rejected our offers out-of-hand.
“While we have tried everything to reach a resolution with the Guild – already agreeing to end packaging and limit content affiliation to 20% – the Guild has continuously rebuffed our requests to engage in constructive conversation and now, there is no plausible deniability that what motivates the Guild’s group boycott is an illegitimate and illegal effort to put WME out of the business of representing writers no matter what we agree to do.
“The Guild’s ‘delay and stall’ approach – a tactic that we have become all too accustomed to every time we make a reasonable offer – did not work this time. We look forward to our hearing on the merits of the preliminary injunction on December 18.”