Guilds affected by declining financial markets

The declining financial markets have hammered the value of all three Hollywood guild pension plans — which may lead to tightened eligibility and reduced benefits.

SAG’s pension plan lost 22.7% of its value last year, falling to $2.1 billion, while the DGA’s basic pension plan declined 26.6% and its supplemental plan fell 23.6%. The WGA pension plan hasn’t disclosed the amount of its 2008 loss but it’s also believed to be over 20%.

In a Tuesday posting on its website, the SAG plan warned it will be cutting costs but didn’t elaborate.

“As we look to the future, we must be prepared for any continued declines in the financial markets,” the plan said. “The trustees are evaluating the impact of the losses with the pension plan’s actuary. A plan will be developed to reduce costs and begin the process of restoring pension plan reserves.”

The funds are separate entities from their respective guilds and are operated jointly by trustees representing the unions and the industry.

“The Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension Plan was not immune to the impact of the declining financial markets,” SAG’s fund said. “The stock market benchmark, the S&P 500, lost 38% of its value in 2008. Although the pension plan’s relative performance was good, the decline represents a significant loss in the assets of the plan.”

Currently, 8,994 retirees receive a SAG pension. The posting noted that those pensions are safe, and any benefits earned toward a pension are protected.

“The plan maintains reserves to cover these promises,” it noted. “Although recent events in the financial markets have significantly reduced those reserves, they are adequate to cover the benefits promised.”

The WGA’s plan said its long-term outlook remains positive, noting that its portfolio is well diversified.

AFTRA’s retirement fund — which pays pensions to more than 7,000 individuals who have obtained five annual vesting credits — disclosed a week ago that the value of its assets declined 23.4% over the past year to about $1.53 billion. The plan tightened eligibility requirements for vesting, accrual and participation (Daily Variety, March 23).

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