CAA V. UTA Drags On

A 16-month-old suit filed by CAA accusing United Talent Agency of poaching five senior agents continues to plod along on in a Santa Monica, Calif., courtroom, with a judge failing to rule whether the case should be moved to arbitration. 

Instead, another hearing was set for Sept. 2. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Nancy Newman said she wanted more time to examine the issues and asked CAA and UTA to submit more materials to bolster their respective arguments, according to

CAA reportedly favors moving the suit to arbitration. However, UTA filed a first amended cross-complaint Aug. 1 that appears to up the ante in the faceoff between agencies, suggesting it’s interested in picking off even more CAA agents.

Invoking California’s “Seven-Year Rule” regarding the maximum length of service contracts, UTA asked the court to declare “that the CAA employment agreements purportedly in effect for agents Jason Heyman, Martin Lesak and Dominic Nuciforo as of the resignation from CAA on March 31, 2015 violated the Seven-Year Rule … and were unenforceable.”

The complaint also asked the court to declare “that UTA may in the future compete for other CAA employees who have been continuously bound by one or more written documents for more than seven years without liability to CAA for inducing the breach of an enforceable contract.” UTA claims in court documents that Heyman, Lesak and Nuciforo completed initial agreements and each signed two extensions totaling 10 years while prior agreements were in place, preventing them from shopping their services elsewhere.

“UTA also wishes to compete for the services of other agents currently employed by CAA,” the complaint states, setting up a request for another court declaration – that the “agreements that purport to bind other CAA agents for a continuous period longer than seven years are unenforceable against those agents, or their prospective new employers, because they violate the Seven-Year Rule.” In addition to declaratory relief, UTA’s complaint also seeks recovery of court and legal costs.

Ten comedy agents struck out from CAA to join UTA in March 2015, many bringing their client rosters with them. CAA filed suit April 2, 2015 followed by two amended complaints, the second of which was filed May 20.

CAA portrayed the hiring of the initial five agents as a “lawless midnight raid.” UTA responded May 31 with zingers of its own: “Forget the days of Michael Ovitz and The Art of War, CAA has a new company handbook; The Art of Whining,” the court document says.