Writers Guild of America sues four major talent agencies

Creator and executive producer David Simon (L) participates in a panel for HBO’s series “Treme” during the HBO sessions of the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California January 14, 2010. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A long-simmering dispute between The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) came to a head on Wednesday, with the WGA saying it had filed a lawsuit against the four major U.S. talent agencies.

The WGA and eight writers, including “The Wire” creator David Simon, brought the lawsuit against Creative Artists Agency, ICM Partners, William Morris Endeavor and United Talent Agency in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit claims the agencies engaged in unfair competition and unfair fiduciary duty through the process of “packaging fees,” in which an agent is paid directly by the studio that hires the client, instead of getting paid a 10 percent commission fee from the client.

The four agencies named in the complaint receive over 80 percent of the packaging fees paid by Hollywood studios and networks, according to the WGA.

The WGA and ATA had been negotiating for a new code of conduct that would replace an existing, 43-year-old deal. When the two groups could not reach a deal on Friday, the WGA told its members to fire agents that had not signed the new code.

Reporting by Helen Coster and Jill Serjeant; Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Tom Brown

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