ICM Moves to Dismiss "Brazen, Abusive" Writers Guild Litigation

The WGA consented to packaging for 43 years and has no standing, the agency contends.
Courtesy of ICM

ICM Partners moved Friday to dismiss the Writers Guild of America suit filed against it and three other agencies, asserting that the guild and individual plaintiffs are “abusing the court system, brazenly asking this Court to declare packaging illegal” despite the guild having permitted the practice under a now-terminated agreement with the Association of Talent Agents.

The filing, called a demurrer, alleges not only that the suit is barred by the guild’s prior consent, but also that the union has no standing to bring a mass claim on behalf of its individual members, as the facts and circumstances of each case vary. In addition, says the agency, the guild has failed to plead one of its claims with required specificity, and another claim, invoking a criminal statute aimed at prohibiting bribery of union officials, is “absurd on its face.” Meanwhile, ICM asserts in a motion to strike, many of the remedies the WGA seeks are not provided by the statutes it invokes.

“This is a motion to dismiss a completely legally and factually baseless complaint,” said Latham & Watkins partner Marvin Putnam, representing ICM. “There’s been consent for 43 years. It’s absurd.”

The ICM filing also rejects individual claims by Patricia Carr and Chip Johannessen, who are among the eight writers who joined the WGA as plaintiffs. With regard to Carr, the agency says that she makes no specific assertions about ICM at all, instead mentioning shows that were packaged by CAA or that were off the air by the time ICM represented her — and that in any case, her claims are barred by the statute of limitations. And, says the agency, Johannessen claims that ICM packaged his show Saints & Strangers but that allegation is simply false.

The WGA did not respond to a request for comment.

The litigation was filed in April and amended in May, but has been on pause for much of the time since then. CAA, another defendant, did file a response to two individual plaintiffs’ claims and a demurrer to the WGA on grounds of standing. WME and UTA, the other two defendants, are expected to file responses by a Tuesday deadline. There will then be oppositions filed by the WGA, replies by the agencies and then a hearing Sept. 19.

The agencies sought to move that date forward to the beginning of September, while the WGA sought to push to October, according to Putnam. The WGA election cycle is underway, with voting concluding Sept. 16.

Meanwhile, separate antitrust actions filed by WME, UTA and CAA against the guild are proceeding in federal court, alleging that the WGA’s order to members that they fire their agents is an unlawful group boycott, a position the guild disputes. And while the lawyers’ offices and courtrooms are busy, the bargaining room is empty: there have been no talks between the two sides since June 7, and none are scheduled.

July 19, 3 p.m.: Corrected detail of CAA’s response to the complaint; added note regarding WGA non-comment.