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Hollywood Teamsters Ordered to Modernize Bylaws!

January 23, 2017 (15:16) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

 

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has ordered Hollywood’s Teamsters Local 399 to modernize its bylaws.

The local, already one of the industry’s most progressive unions, has been instructed to tell its members that they cannot discriminate against a fellow worker based on “mental disability” and “gender identity.” Under the old bylaws, members had to swear an oath that they wouldn’t “discriminate against a fellow worker on account of race, color, religion, sex, age, physical disability, national origin or sexual orientation.” Under the new rules, they can’t discriminate against “any other legally protected group” either.

And to smooth the transition of power, the new rules require that when a new leader of the local is elected, the old leader now will be required to meet – or at least send a designee to meet – the new leader “between the date of the election and the end of the term of office to review pending grievances, open contract negotiations, and the local’s financial records.”

Trustees, meanwhile, no longer will be allowed to sign “blank reports” when reviewing the local’s financial ledgers.

And under the amended bylaws, the local’s chief executive officer will no longer be limited to calling the executive board to action “by telegraphing, writing, or telephoning,” but can now do so by “electronic mailing,” as well. Western Union, however, remains an option.

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Let’s hope Team play will prevail!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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SAG-AFTRA Board Approves Proposals for Film and TV Contract Talks!

January 22, 2017 (00:27) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

The national board of SAG-AFTRA has overwhelmingly approved the union’s package of proposals for its upcoming negotiations for a new film and TV contract. No date has been set for the negotiations, but the Writers Guild typically follows the Directors Guild, which recently concluded its talks for a new contract.

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris called it a “meaningful package of proposals”, and updated the board, meeting in plenary session on Saturday, on the guild’s other key labor issue – its ongoing strike against selected video game companies. The union, she said, will hold a rally outside one of the struck companies on Feb. 2.

She also detailed her recent trip to Washington, D.C., where she attended an AFL-CIO reception for incoming freshmen members of Congress and met with lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill.

David White, the guild’s national executive director, updated the board on operational matters and noted that several digital initiatives have been launched, including an online agency portal that allows agents to submit materials through the union’s website. A portal for casting directors will soon be rolled out, as well, he said. He also noted that cyber security remained a top priority of the union’s IT department.

“The terrific work of our IT department means that the union can continue to harness technology to be more responsive to our membership,” he said. “This will enable us to be more nimble as we head into a crucial negotiation and the upcoming national convention.”

Jane Austin, the guild’s secretary-treasurer, and Arianna Ozzanto, the guild’s CFO, reported that second quarter results are tracking ahead of planned revenue with expenses tracking closely to budget.

The board, meanwhile, approved a finance committee recommendation to hold initiation fees at the current rate of $3,000. An automatic increase will hike minimum dues from the current $206 to $210.12, effective May 1.

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Alright Jack, we will be enabled to be more nimble!  Whew!  What a relief!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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Feds Arrest AFTRA Retirement Fund Exec in Alleged $3.4M Fraud!

January 21, 2017 (13:55) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

“Mexicans need burritos,” a co-conspirator allegedly texted a witness, purportedly meaning that “Papi” — allegedly executive Rick Rubano, whose attorney says he’s innocent — wanted a kickback deposited that morning.

Federal agents arrested on Friday the former co-head of information technology at the AFTRA Retirement Fund, Enrico “Rick” Rubano, and an alleged co-conspirator and charged them with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged bogus invoicing and kickback scheme that a Postal Inspector says netted at least $3.4 million from 2009-2015.

In an interview, Rubano’s attorney flatly declared him innocent and said that “the allegations are false.”

The allegations are contained in a criminal complaint dated January 17, 2017, and apparently unsealed after the arrest, as well as a Department of Justice press release and a statement on the website of the Fund, which was formerly known as the AFTRA Health & Retirement Fund prior to the merger of its health plan and the SAG Health Plan.

“During one of [our] periodic internal reviews of operations, AFTRA Retirement found evidence that there may have been unauthorized expenditures in connection with a vendor relationship,” says the statement. “AFTRA Retirement immediately undertook a careful review of the evidence and promptly notified federal law enforcement authorities. AFTRA Retirement has actively cooperated in this investigation.”

The Fund, which is a legally separate organization from the SAG Plan  and from SAG-AFTRA itself, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and SAG-AFTRA would not immediately comment on the situation.

The union’s national board is meeting today, Saturday, and will likely discuss the matter or may already have in the last couple hours.

“He’s innocent and we fully expect him to be exonerated in time,” said Rubano’s counsel, high-powered New York attorney Sarita Kedia. “He’s a good person, he’s worked diligently throughout his career and has been an exemplary employee.”

She added, “A mistake was made because of false statements by CW-1 [a confidential witness for the government] and possibly others.” She said Rubano’s employment with the Fund ended in fall 2015.

Meanwhile, the Fund’s statement adds that “AFTRA Retirement also promptly notified its insurance carrier of this situation and is pursuing recovery of any losses ultimately determined to have been incurred. … [T]he losses will not have a material financial impact on AFTRA Retirement and participants’ benefits are not at risk.”

The criminal complaint triggers a thirty-day period in which prosecutors can issue an indictment if they intend to proceed, Rubano’s attorney said. Each of the charges carries a maximum sentence of twenty years, according to the DOJ release. However, actual sentences, if the defendants are found or plead guilty, are determined by a judge, with reference to guidelines that often suggest a shorter sentence than the maximum.

According to the complaint, Rubano was co-head of IT from 2008 through October 2015 and, starting in 2009, approved hundreds of false invoices submitted by consultant Shivanand Maharaj, who was also arrested Friday. Most of the invoices were for “an amount slightly less than $5,000,” said the complaint, and contained a brief description of the IT work purportedly performed, but without backup documentation or any description of scope of work or hours worked.

When a US Postal Inspector reviewed sample invoices with Fund employees, she found variously that the work had been performed by other vendors, was covered by existing service contracts, was not appropriate for an outside consultant or had in fact ben performed by the Fund employees themselves.

The inspector also found that Maharaj’s company had paid Rubano’s “at least approximately $200,000” via over one hundred wire transfers and checks, and also that on more than forty occasions cash was withdrawn from the Maharaj company’s bank account and an identical cash deposit was made to the Rubano company’s.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Rubano and Maharaj approached a third individual, identified only as CW-1 and persuaded that person to set up an IT company notwithstanding CW-1’s complete lack of IT background or experience. That entity was then used as a vehicle for the fraud, according to the complaint, with CW-1 receiving somewhat less than a 30 percent cut of applicable payments from the Fund.

In October 2016, Maharaj asked CW-1 to destroy check stubs relating to those payments, according to the complaint. Whether CW-1 did so is unclear, as the Postal Inspector states in the complaint that she reviewed over sixty check stubs.

Rubano’s attorney confirmed that agents seized tangible items upon arresting her client, but said she didn’t know what was taken. Computers, documents and cell phones are among the typical targets of a criminal search warrant.

In addition to documentary evidence, the complaint alleges a number of text messages, including one dated October 30, 2014, in which Maharaj texted CW-1 and said that “Papi” wanted a deposit made that morning because “Mexicans need burritos.”

Jan. 21, 11:04 a.m.: Updated with comments and information from Rubano’s attorney

Words fail me!  As it appears so have some at AFTRA

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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Department Of Labor Finds $750,000 Misappropriated From SAG Pension & Health Plans!

January 20, 2017 (18:40) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

The U.S. Department of Labor has found that more than $750,000 was misappropriated from the SAG Pension & Health Plans, according to guild sources familiar with the probe. The money has been repaid by the Plans’ insurer, and the DoL’s investigation was closed last month.

Guild sources say that the misuse of the Plans’ funds stem largely from excessive fees paid on investments; improper spending on holiday, staff retirement and anniversary parties; and excessive spending by the trustees for meals, limos and meetings.

SAGAFTRALogo

The misappropriation of funds is in addition to the millions of dollars embezzled by Nader Karimi, the Plans’ former chief information officer, who was sentenced in April to five years of probation after having pled guilty to filing a false income tax return in which he failed to report more than $700,000 in kickbacks he received from contractors he hired to upgrade the Plans’ computer system.

Bruce Dow, the Plans’ former chief administrator, testified that Karimi might have embezzled as much as $3 million, and the Plans received more than $2.5 million from its insurers to recoup part of those loses. During a deposition, Dow said it was difficult to determine exactly how much Karimi had stolen. Critics say that the exact amount won’t be known until and unless the Plans conduct a forensic audit.

The revelation of the latest misappropriation of funds – said to total $756,027.16 – is expected to be a hot topic of debate at tomorrow’s SAG-AFTRA national board meeting.

“That’s the exact amount that was told to me by the Department of Labor after two years of complaints filed by me and other concerned members,” said guild member Peter Antico, who’s been pressing for a forensic audit of the Plans for years.

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It’s up to you SAG-AFTRA Folks!  If you think a Forensic audit is needed you need to let our union leadership know!  So Board members what’s the Holdup?  Besides what, on its face, seems to be going on with our union!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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**If you’d like to respond to this story please do so in the comments section provided below using your name!!!

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DGA Investigating Threats Against Members Working On Trump Inauguration!

January 19, 2017 (17:50) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

 

The Directors Guild is investigating threats against guild members working on the TV coverage of Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremonies. The anonymous threat, sent via email to more than 60 guild members, called Trump “the monster we all fear” and said “there is no need of naming names when the inaugural credits will tell us enough about the people who truly care about this country and those who don’t share the same ideals.”

The guild said in a statement: “This is a DGA-covered project, staffed with DGA-represented employees. We have been in communication with our members and let them know we support their right to work on this project and intend to protect them fully. We have, and will continue to, investigate the source of this anonymous email.”

Trump will be sworn in around noon ET on Friday in Washington, D.C.

TMZ first reported news of the emails.

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Good luck to the investigators!  No room for this sort of thing in our great country!

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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