L.A. Judge Rejects WGA Packaging Fees Claims

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A federal judge in Los Angeles today rejected more than half the claims brought by the Writers Guild of America in a lawsuit against the three largest talent agencies.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte dismissed eight of 14 claims, including price fixing and racketeering allegations, with prejudice, meaning that the guild cannot refile them.

The agencies -- WME, CAA and UTA -- initially filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court alleging antitrust violations against the guild last year. The talent agencies alleged that the union had begun an illegal boycott by ordering writers to fire their agents.

WGA then countersued, alleging that packaging fees were a form of bribery, involving kickbacks or racketeering activity.

Packaging fees are up-front funds paid by a studio to an agency representing multiple people -- such as writers, actors or directors -- on a particular series or production. The guild contends such fees hurt writers, often leading to agents earning more money on package deals than the writers themselves.

The suits originally sought a declaration that packaging fees are unlawful and requested a judge's order that the agencies provide an accounting of all packaging fee deals involving guild members. The guild is also seeking all profits generated from packaging fees.

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