SAG facing ‘Money’ allegations

SAG facing ‘Money’ allegations

Misconduct complaint filed against program

Los Angeles attorney Neville L. Johnson is representing Ken Osmond, William Richert and William Webb.

By DAVE MCNARY
Variety
December 2, 2008

SAG’s “Get Your Money” program is a sham, according to a misconduct complaint filed against SAG president Alan Rosenberg and secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens.

But SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who’s also named in the complaint, called the charges bogus and said SAG’s accountability on the issue has been “exemplary.”

The complaint — filed Monday by 42-year SAG member Eric Hughes — challenges SAG’s authority over $93 million it’s holding in trust for members and accuses the guild of lying to members about how it’s been handling those funds — mainly, that SAG is just now revealing these funds, which it’s held for years.

The 23-count complaint, which also names national board member Kent McCord, goes to SAG’s national board for a possible hearing.

Should SAG not act on Hughes’ complaint, he’d have the option of filing suit.

At issue are so-called foreign levies collected from countries by such mechanisms as taxes on video sales and/or rentals to compensate copyright holders for reuse.

SAG has asserted that the studios were receiving the levies for actors before American artists, including actors, began getting them after a 1989 agreement.

SAG has $93 million of “funds held in trust for others” — a fact that was disclosed publicly only on SAG’s most recent LM-2 filing with the federal government, but without any elaboration.

A month ago, SAG launched the “Get Your Money” campaign, aimed at distributing some of the more than $25 million in “unclaimed residuals” it hadn’t given to more than 66,000 people — including heirs of John F. Kennedy, Alan Ladd, Freddie Prinze and Redd Foxx, along with such notables as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Michael Dukakis and Nancy Reagan (Daily Variety, Oct. 30).

At the time, the guild said it was facing a “dilemma” in getting the funds distributed because it didn’t have correct addresses in most cases.

Hughes told Daily Variety he’s filed the complaint because SAG has had an unratified collective-bargaining agreement with AMPTP members about distribution of foreign levies since 1989. However, that fact was only disclosed recently through a court case and Hughes believes the issue is relevant to SAG members as they weigh the facts on whether to vote for strike authorization.

Hughes has monitored the issue extensively at his screenrights.net website.

Last year, guild member Ken Osmond filed suit over the foreign levies, claiming that SAG overstepped its authority to make those agreements and had never disclosed them until he and Jack Klugman threatened to sue.

Hughes’ complaint alleges SAG has obstructed justice in the Osmond suit; prevented communication to members about how SAG obtains the funds; concealed funds for non-members and the 10% assessment on members who receive the funds; deposited residual checks due to members such as Heath Ledger, Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave; and placed the name of former labor secretary Robert Reich on the “cannot locate” list during his tenure as a Cabinet member.

Crabtree-Ireland said that SAG does not comment upon pending internal matters.

“However, any assertions that the guild has been less than fully forthcoming in its financial disclosures are completely false,” Crabtree-Ireland added. “Not only does the guild file a comprehensive, public financial disclosure (LM-2) that is published on the Dept. of Labor website, but the guild also is audited annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and provides detailed quarterly financial updates to its finance committee and the national board of directors. The financial transparency and accountability of the guild to its membership is exemplary.”

Other suits on foreign levies were filed in 2005 against the WGA by William Richert and in 2006 against the DGA by William Webb; that suit was settled in the spring.

According to the attorney for Osmond and Richert, both the WGA and SAG suits have been in settlement talks.