March 19, 2012 9:47am PT by Matthew Belloni
CAA Settles TV Writer Age Discrimination Lawsuit
Creative Artists Agency has settled a long-running class action lawsuit alleging it discriminated against older television writers by refusing to represent them.
The agency annoucned the settlement Monday in conjunction with lawyers for 115 television writers who filed suit.
CAA is the last to settle a series of 23 class actions filed more than a decade ago against various Hollywood entities claiming that they systematically refused to do business with TV writers above a certain age. The major settlement came in 2010, when 17 networks and a handful of agencies settled claims for more than $70 million. CAA held out, and the settlement today includes no cash payment to the writers and no admission of liability.
Instead, CAA will donate $150,000 to a charity that helps older writers.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven M. Sprenger said in a statement: “Based on the evidence, it is not likely that CAA would be found liable for age discrimination with respect to the matters alleged in the complaint.”
CAA’s counsel, Anthony J. Oncidi of Proskauer Rose, said in a statement: “The trial already had begun. We are confident that CAA would not have been found liable once we had finished presenting the evidence and completed the trial.”
Here's the full text of the statement the parties sent out on Monday:
Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and representatives of a class of television writers today announced the settlement of a case alleging age discrimination in the representation of television writers.
The case was the last of 23 separate class actions that were filed a decade ago by the writers against the major television networks, production studios, and talent agencies. The other 22 cases settled over the past six years for a combined amount of $74.5 million. The announcement of today’s news – wherein CAA has agreed to make a $150,000 donation and provide limited consulting services to a non-profit entity that assists older television writers – was made jointly by CAA and Steven M. Sprenger of Washington D.C., Lead Counsel for the 115 named plaintiffs and the settlement class. The settlement is subject to final approval by the California Superior Court in and for the County of Los Angeles.
CAA strongly denies the writers’ allegations and states that its representation practices fully comply with the law and reflect its commitment to equal opportunity. CAA also notes that it has a long-standing practice against discrimination and that it represents substantial numbers of writers who are 40 years of age or older.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven M. Sprenger stated, “Based on the evidence, it is not likely that CAA would be found liable for age discrimination with respect to the matters alleged in the complaint.”
CAA’s counsel Anthony J. Oncidi of Proskauer Rose LLP stated, “The trial already had begun. We are confident that CAA would not have been found liable once we had finished presenting the evidence and completed the trial.”
In addition to CAA’s donation to a non-profit entity known as the Fund for the Future, CAA will offer the Fund for the Future up to 60 hours of consulting services relating to production and distribution of online content over the next three years. CAA will pay nothing to the plaintiffs, settlement class members, or their attorneys.
The Fund for the Future was created after 19 of the other 22 cases settled in 2010. Among other things, the Fund for the Future sponsors television writing networking events and writing competitions for settlement class members; offers grants or loans to settlement class members to finance their scriptwriting and online projects; provides emergency social welfare loans to settlement class members who meet financial necessity criteria; and explores ways to enhance settlement class members’ access to medical insurance and/or financial resources to supplement pensions. The Fund for the Future is governed by a board composed of settlement class members. CAA is not involved in the Fund for the Future’s governance or operations.
“I speak for all class counsel in recommending that all settlement class members accept the settlement. We are honored to have represented a distinguished and talented group of clients and class members in the Writers’ Cases,” stated Sprenger.