SAG plans deny report of government raid

‘Absolutely no validity to the story’

The Screen Actors Guild – Producers Pension and Health Plans has issued a statement denying recent reports that their offices were raided by government officials.

The trustees of the plans, operated independently of SAG, made the announcement Friday to counter what they call “erroneous” claims. Move comes in the wake of unsourced reports of a March 7 raid by federal law enforcement officers at their Los Angele’s offices.

“Contrary to recent reports, there is absolutely no validity to the story or to the underlying claim that any governmental officials have ‘raided’ the Plans or otherwise have taken any documents from the Plans,” the org said in a statement. “In fact, it is important to understand that despite the mention of a ‘raid’ of an office in Massachusetts, the Plans do not have an office in Massachusetts.”

*Old Dog Clarification on word games of SAG officials:  http://www.sag.org/branches/boston

The group also said the U.S. Dept. of Labor had announced a field audit in 2010, noting that such audits of multi-employer plans of this sort are routine for benefit plans across the country.

“In fact, since 1987, this is the 10th Dept. of Labor audit of the SAG-PPHP,” the statement said. “This current audit is no different than previous audits, which have resulted in our staff working with the DOL to ensure that Plan procedures are up-to-date and in compliance with various adjustments in Federal guidelines and recent changes in the law.”

The plans were hit last year by allegations of misconduct and financial problems by fired plan exec Craig E. Simmons. The trustees announced in December that “an extensive and independent investigation” had found no validity to the allegations.

Simmons filed a complaint last year with the federal government asserting that he was terminated for acting as a whistle blower. The board of trustees of the plans denied the allegations in September and retained outside counsel to review the matter.

Simmons alleged in a complaint filed with the U.S. Labor Dept. that he was fired in March by chief executive Bruce Dow due to Simmons’ refusal to mislead board trustees and government investigators about embezzlement by the plans’ former chief information officer, Nader Karimi. Simmons also alleged in the complaint that Dow and other execs had misused funds for personal benefit.

Dow took a 60-day medical leave of absence in January after he initiated a request for a leave to deal with what he termed a “chronic healthcare problem.” The exec said at that point that he intended to return to his post.

The trustees said Friday that the plans are safe.

“As before, we want to reaffirm that the fiscal integrity of the Plans remains absolutely sound and that participant benefits are secure,” the trustees said. “There has been no change in the status of the Plans’ assets. The Trustees and staff will continue our efforts to reinforce the internal controls at the Plans to ensure that they are in line with best practices. While we cannot control the spurious stories that surface as a result of allegations made by a former employee, we can assure participants that their assets have never been at risk.”

The SAG health plan covers about 40,000 participants and has assets of more than $2 billion, while the retirement plan pays pensions to an estimated 9,000 beneficiaries.

Contact Dave McNary at dave.mcnary@variety.com

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Hmmmm…Those in charge at SAG deny a RAID…but, but, but they don’t deny that someone came by and left with boxes of stuff.  Hmmm…again!!!

 

Arl

The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

Here’s the latest from Niki Finki on the story

EXCLUSIVE: Feds Investigating SAG P&H Plan Embezzlements And Cover-Ups Allegations

EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that whistleblower Craig Simmons has been telling federal authorities what he knows about the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plan scandal. During October 2011, November 2011, and December 2011, he testified under oath during three sessions in Los Angeles with the FBI, IRS, Securities & Exchange Commission, Department Of Justice, and Department Of Labor inside the Federal Building in Westwood. My information is that the authorities were taking copious notes while Simmons spoke. Insiders also tell me that federal investigations are now ongoing into not just one embezzlement and cover-up inside the SAG P&H Plan but also another fraud and cover-up there which makes two scandals altogether. I understand the FBI asked Simmons not to go public about the probes and he has not spoken publicly about his whistleblowing. [See Simmons’ letter here to the SAG P&HP 36 Board Of Trustees, and Simmons’ letter here to the Department Of Labor, which led to the federal probes.] So Deadline is the first to break this important news.

My understanding is that when Simmons went in to testify, the feds already had documents in their possession outlining what embezzlements and cover-ups may have taken place.  However, I can also now confirm that federal investigators last week and this week arrived at SAG P&H Plan offices in Southern California and in Massachusetts and carried out several dozen boxes of paperwork to unmarked cars waiting outside. (Did Federal Officials “Raid” The SAG P&H Plan Offices?) New information reaching me is that this visit took place on Wednesday, March 7th, and not on Friday, March 9th, as I’d previously reported. And a few weeks earlier a man identifying himself as an investigator came into the offices at 4 PM with a copy machine on big dolly and spent 4 to 5 hours Xeroxing documents. And today New England SAG member James McIsaac wrote on Facebook from Massachusetts that “My local pres just confirmed the FBI picked up some papers at the P&HP office.” I’ve received more confirmations that the visits were in connection with official probes into the SAH P&HP wrongdoing.

In my opinion, it’s a day late and a dollar short for the SAG P&H Plan to come clean about exactly what is going on regarding any and all city, county, and/or federal investigations into allegations of embezzlements and cover-ups. (In fact I am in a possession of an internal SAG P&HP memo instructing staff to tell any callers about my article to say, “No, nothing happened on Friday” — because it took place that Wednesday. Talk about parsing!) Nothing worse than if that organizations is accused of trying to cover-up the cover-up of the fraud. And nothing worse than these probes intensifying during the membership vote on the pending SAG-AFTRA merger. Because no future plans for the two unions’ pension and health plans – not even whether they’ll be operated separately or combined — have been revealed or even formally studied by SAG and/or AFTRA leaderships. (SAG always points out that the SAG P&H Plan is run separately from the guild.)

Craig Simmons, of course, is the veteran SAG P&H Plan high-ranking executive and attorney who first discovered what he alleges are several embezzlement schemes and cover-ups inside the organization. He maintains that the fraud involved tens of millions of dollars and that, when he discovered it, he was asked to stop his investigation  and lie to authorities about the wrongdoing. When he refused, he was fired. On August 23, 2011, Simmons wrote personalized private letters detailing the scandal to all 36 members of the SAG P&H Plan Board Of Trustees — read it here.

Simmons gave the Trustees two weeks to remedy the situation or warned he was going to federal authorities. Which he did and sent a September 14, 2011, letter directly to the U.S. Department Of Labor. (Read it here…) His Fall testimony in front of various federal authorities is a direct outgrowth of his whistleblowing.