Writers Guild Objects to DOJ Intervention in Agency Battle
The Writers Guild of America urged a judge on Monday to refuse to allow the Department of Justice to appear at a court hearing in its legal fight with the major talent agencies.
The guild argued that the DOJ has “no particular expertise” on the antitrust issues in play.
For the last eight months, the guild has been engaged in a high-stakes war with the major agencies over the issue of packaging fees. In April, the guild instructed its members to fire their agents after the agencies refused to forswear packaging fees, which the guild believes represent a conflict of interest.
Three agencies — CAA, UTA and WME — are suing the guild in federal court, alleging that the union is engaged in an illegal group boycott. The guild argues that its actions fall within a broad labor exemption to the federal antitrust statutes, and is asking Judge Andre Birotte to throw out the agencies’ suit. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Friday.
The DOJ Antitrust Division weighed in on the controversy last week, filing a brief challenging the guild’s position. The DOJ contends that the labor exemption is not as broad as the guild claims, and argues that Birotte should order discovery in the case to determine if the guild has exceeded the law’s protections.
In an unusual move, the department also asked that its attorneys be allowed to appear and argue the matter at Friday’s hearing.
In its filing on Monday, the guild argued that the DOJ has not explained why it should be allowed to appear, and that its brief on the subject “does not identify any antitrust issue of any interest to the Department.”
“There are already several parties and attorneys who will be appearing in Friday’s hearing, and the views of the Department’s counsel are entitled to no particular deference in this case,” the guild’s attorneys wrote.
The agencies have already informed the DOJ that they do not object to its presence at the hearing.