Lee Daniels Joins Writers' Fight With Agencies: "They've Been Corrupt"

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Lee Daniels

The 'Empire' producer is the latest high-profile TV creator to speak out in favor of a "Code of Conduct."

Lee Daniels is joining a chorus of writers who are hoping to get Hollywood's major talent agencies to eliminate packaging fees and affiliate production.

Nearly a week after more than 800 writers signed a Writers Guild of America letter calling on major agencies to agree to a "Code of Conduct" that asks them to do away with both practices, the Empire and Star producer wrote his own statement that was emailed to the union's members. The showrunner says the agencies have been "corrupt and irresponsible financial fiduciaries."

Daniels is the latest high-profile TV creator to speak out in favor of the guild's negotiations. On Wednesday, a note emailed to guild members from J.J. Abrams quoted the prolific filmmaker and showrunner as saying "it’s finally time to end agencies’ conflicted practices."

The guild had been in ongoing talks with the Association of Talent Agents ahead of an April 6 deadline, when the current franchise agreement covering the agencies and the union expires. So far, none of the major agencies — CAA, WME, UTA or ICM — have signaled that they will sign the writers "Code of Conduct." The five-day vote is ongoing and results are expected Sunday. 

However, the mid-tier Abrams Artists Agency said in a memo disclosed this week that "we will share part of our portion of the packaging fee with our clients," which broke ranks with the majors even though the agency said it also wouldn't sign a "Code of Conduct." 

The WGA joint letter signed by hundreds of writers stated that a new agreement should "confront practices that constitute a conflict of interest: agency packaging fees and agencies functioning as producers."