SAG pension chief will ankle next week

Bruce Dow announcement comes after 'chronic healthcare problem'

Bruce Dow, longtime chief executive of the Screen Actors Guild Producers Pension and Health Plans, has announced that he will leave the post next week.

Dow, who’s been at the center of allegations made by a dismissed executive, made the announcement Wednesday. He had returned to work recently following a 60-day medical leave of absence to deal with what he termed a “chronic healthcare problem.”

The top slot will be filled by the plans’ chief operating officer Christopher Dowdell on an interim basis. The trustees of the plan issued a statement that they had accepted “with regret” Dow’s decision to resign.

“For the last 28 years, Bruce has been instrumental in assisting the Trustees in designing and managing many of the benefit programs actors enjoy today,” the trustees said. “His ideas and innovation over the years have produced substantial savings for the plans and excellent benefits for plan participants. We greatly appreciate the work that Bruce has done for the Plans and are pleased to announce that Bruce will serve as a consultant to the plans.”

The pension and health plans were sued last month by Craig E Simmons for alleged wrongful termination. Simmons had filed a complaint with the federal government last year, asserting he was terminated for acting as a whistleblower about alleged embezzlement at the fund.

The board of trustees of the plans, operated separately from SAG, denied the allegations in September, retained outside counsel to review the matter and announced in December that the allegations were baseless.

Simmons alleged in the suit — and in the complaint filed with the U.S. Labor Dept. that he was fired in March 2011 by 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 that Dow and other execs had misused funds for personal benefit.

In a letter to plan participants dated Dec. 22, the plan trustees — SAG and industry reps — said that “an extensive and independent investigation” found no validity to the allegations by Simmons. The trustees also addressed embezzlement of $2 million that was discovered three years ago and said they were evaluating whether remedial actions are required.

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. The SAG-AFTRA merger, completed March 30, has been touted by merger backers as a first step toward merging the SAG and AFTRA health and pension plans.

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