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WGA Files Federal Suit Against Agencies. Alleging Racketeering

The Writers Guild of America East and West have filed suit in a federal district court against talent agencies WME, CAA and UTA, adding antitrust and racketeering charges to their ongoing legal challenge. 

WGA alleges that agency packaging fees (when a studio, rather than a client, pays an agent a fee for bringing it a "package" of talent" under their representation) run afoul of antitrust laws and the RICO Act. The guild had filed against the agencies in state court, but withdrew that and is consolidating that challenge with the federal one.  

In addition to a declaration by the court that packaging fees are unlawful, WGA asks the court to require the agencies to account for all packaging fee deals involving its members and "disgorge all profits generated from unlawful and unfair packaging fees." 

Prior to filing the federal suits today, the WGA withdrew the state court lawsuit it filed in April. The state court claims will be consolidated and decided as part of the federal court action.  

The agencies have counter-claimed antitrust violations by the guild, which the federal court filing addresses and denies as baseless. 

“Over the years the major agencies have repeatedly broken federal antitrust law by conspiring to fix the price of packaging fees,” said Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) President David Goodman. “Their current campaign to preserve the packaging fee model by strong-arming smaller agencies also violates the law. We are simply asking the court to stop these agencies from illegally enriching themselves at the expense of writers.” 

Back in April, WGA filed suit in a Los Angeles Superior Court against talent agency packaging fees, saying they are illegal.  

 The majority of WGA members also "fired" their agents.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.