In April, 2019 the WGA directed its members to fire their agents unless the agents agreed to adhere to a Code of Conduct that would end the collection of package commissions and strictly limit their ownership stake in production entities. Buoyed by solidarity among its members, the union was successful in obtaining widespread agreement from the agencies, beginning with Verve in May 2019 to industry leaders UTA and ICM Partners over the summer. This leaves the two largest agencies, CAA and WME, still to negotiate deals. The WGA has now reported that it is in advanced talks with both agencies to reach a final agreement.
The sticking point in negotiations is the ownership interest of the agencies in affiliated production companies. The WGA will accept agency ownership stakes of up to 20% in production entities. Its concern is to unravel the ownership structures of both agencies, their private equity owners, and their affiliated production companies — Endeavor Content for WME and wiip for CAA — in order to satisfy itself that this is the case. The WGA says that it has brought in outside corporate and M&A counsel and sent a request to both agencies for them to disclose in detail their relationships to the production affiliates, the agencies and their owners.
In response to CAA’s recent statement that it had largely accepted the Guild’s terms, the WGA responded “CAA has proposed changes to the [franchise] agreement that the WGA has not — and cannot — agree to,” but added “our conversations continue.” Coming from a union that is not above calling its negotiating partners “despicable,” I would take this relatively measured tone as a sign of progress.