A federal judge today denied the WGA’s motion to compel the Big 3 talent agencies to produce more documents than they’d originally agreed to turn over in their ongoing legal battle over packaging fees.
It was another win for WME, CAA and UTA — though they didn’t get away cleanly: U.S. Magistrate Alexander MacKinnon, who’s overseeing the discovery portion of the case, admonishing them for “backtracking” on an earlier stipulation about the number of documents they’d already agreed to produce.
The two sides had submitted briefs about the scope of discovery only hours after U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. threw out most of the guild’s claims on April 27, including claims for federal price-fixing, racketeering and group boycott, but the agencies later said that those briefs had been drafted before that ruling and did not fully take into account the “eleventh hour” import of his decision. The agencies then asked the court to allow them to limit the amount of discovery in light of that ruling, which left intact the guild’s state claim of price-fixing and several other claims by individual plaintiffs for breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition and breach of contract.
MacKinnon, while denying without prejudice the guild’s motion to compel the production of more documents, expressed “concerns” about the agencies’ “tactic of presenting an agreed discovery proposal in the joint stipulation – and then backtracking in a supplemental brief based on an order that was known at the time joint stipulation was filed.”
The agencies each had agreed initially to search the files of 15 current and former executives and agents for documents relevant to their packaging fees, with the WGA arguing that each agency should have to search the files of at least 50 current and former executives and agents.
In today’s order, MacKinnon ruled that the agencies “can proceed according to their own search plan if they are prepared to defend that plan if later challenged” by the guild. “The Court concludes that the parties’ joint stipulation and supplemental briefs do not present issues that are ripe for determination,” he said, adding “the Court will not at this time attempt to choose the number of custodians to be searched” by the agencies.
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