WME and WGA Postpone Trial to February 2022 as Talks Continue
Elliot Stokes for Variety
The Writers Guild of America and William Morris Endeavor have agreed to postpone a federal trial until February 2022, as the two sides continue to work toward a settlement.
Attorneys for both sides filed a request on Tuesday in federal court to push back the trial, which is currently set for Aug. 24.
WME said on Monday that it is engaged in substantive negotiations with the guild, and that it is working to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible.
WME is the sole remaining agency that does not have a franchise agreement with the WGA. The WGA declared a boycott nearly two years ago that has succeeded in getting all other major agencies to give up on packaging fees and affiliated production, which the guild considers an impermissible conflict of interest. WME has made it clear that it, too, would like to reach an agreement, but that it needs more time to divest its ownership of Endeavor Content, its production affiliate.
WME, CAA and UTA sued the guild in 2019, accusing it of engaging in an illegal group boycott in violation of antitrust laws. CAA and UTA have dropped out of the case, leaving only WME still arguing that the boycott is illegal.
It appears unlikely that the case will proceed to trial. At a hearing in December, Judge Andre Birotte urged both sides to reach a deal as quickly as possible, citing real harms to agents and clients who cannot work together so long as the boycott continues. Birotte refused WME’s request to order an end to the boycott, however, citing federal law that prohibits judicial intervention in non-violent labor disputes.
The six-month delay will also extend deadlines for pre-trial discovery and motions, potentially allowing the two sides more breathing room as they seek a resolution. The court system has also suffered from delays and a case backlog due to the pandemic, which also made it unlikely that the case could be heard in August.
Variety's Gene Maddaus contributed to this post.