SAG suits up with Pisano

Guild gets ready to rumble over CEO

Negotiations with producers are just weeks away, and SAG CEO Bob Pisano is still facing a lawsuit calling for his ouster as the union’s chief negotiator — but he won’t be facing it alone.

Hinting the guild itself has more to lose than Pisano does should he lose his job, the union has asked to be named a co-defendant in the conflict-of-interest lawsuit brought against the CEO by two members of the guild.

“We had to ask to be named a co-defendant, because we’ve got constitutional interests at stake,” said David White, SAG’s general counsel, in an interview with Daily Variety, adding, “The SAG board decides who’ll be its CEO, its chief negotiator, and what staff represents its interests. Two members don’t have the right to interfere in the democratic process that happens in the board room.”

Conflict alleged

Attorneys for SAG members Scott Wilson and Tom Bower wrote to SAG prexy Melissa Gilbert Jan. 30 claiming Pisano’s position as an advisory board member of pay TV outfit Cinema Entertainment Group and his seat on the board of directors of DVD rental outfit Netflix give Pisano “a legally imposed fiduciary duty to act in the best interests” of those companies. Both SAG and Pisano dismissed their concerns as having been previously examined and found not to conflict with SAG duties — those probes and conclusions made by SAG’s search committee, its inhouse and external counsels and its national board.

Undeterred, Wilson and Bower submitted papers in July in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking a court-enforced removal of Pisano as SAG’s chief negotiator.

“SAG has intervened in this lawsuit to protect Bob Pisano, and Bob Pisano is trying to hide his conflict of interest behind SAG,” Wilson said, adding, “SAG’s intervention was not approved by the (national) board of directors and must have been approved by Pisano himself. Pisano is using SAG to protect himself. This is a misuse of the member’s money.”

A SAG spokesman countered that SAG general counsel White asked for the guild to be named a co-defendant only after consulting and getting the greenlight from SAG’s elected leadership, including SAG prexy Gilbert and secretary-treasurer James Cromwell, among others.

Board support

Recent events indicate Pisano enjoys the support of his union’s board, at least for now. In October, Pisano faced down his third vote of no confidence initiated by the guild’s Hollywood board regarding his role as chief negotiator. The national board backed him by a modest but decisive margin, with 58% voting in favor of keeping him on the job. (In August, Pisano had survived a similar vote with 68% of the national board’s backing.)

With that in mind, White added that SAG also has filed a request for summary judgment with the court — a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and that all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial.

A hearing is set for Dec. 6 in U.S. District Court, when a judge will determine whether to dismiss the suit or proceed.

All of this is coming to a head as Pisano is readying for contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers tentatively skedded to begin by the end of the year.

Residual effect

For only the third time in its history, SAG had sought — and in March reached — a one-year extension with producers. The guild purposely left DVD and other residuals off the table, instead, focusing on minimum wage and pension and health increases to avoid a work slowdown. When the second phase of the negotiations resume, residuals will again be front-and-center.

However, since neither the Directors Guild nor the Writers Guild made any progress on the DVD residuals issue, it appears Pisano will have a hard row to hoe, regardless of the outcome of the litigation.

In the meantime, insiders privately speculate SAG might start negotiating with producers as soon as Dec. 2, but the date is not set in stone.

More Scene

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron attends the 44th Annual

    Alfonso Cuarón to LAFCA: 'Thanks to Your Help We Can Break Down Walls'

    Inclusion was the big winner at the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards, which was held Saturday night at the InterContinental in Century City. “This year’s winners are the most diverse in LAFCA’s 43-year history,” announced its president, Claudia Puig, adding that 14 out of their 18 awards were won by women and people of color. [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Max Malandrino/REX/Shutterstock

    Hollywood Power Players Assemble to Save Iconic Deli Nate 'n Al

    A group of Hollywood executives and celebrities have banded together with the intent to save Beverly Hills deli and star haunt Nate ‘n Al, a stone’s throw from tourist destination Rodeo Drive. A consortium of investors including music kingpin Irving Azoff and wife Shelli, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell, and Rande Gerber and [...]

  • Charlie Collier, FOX Chief Executive Officer

    'The Passage' Team Talks Diversifying Races, Genders and Ages of Book Characters

    “The Passage” star Saniyya Sidney was unaware that the book version of her character was originally white until her father, a fan of Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic trilogy, informed her during the audition process. “I was like, ‘Oh, she is?'” Sidney told Variety at Thursday’s series premiere in Santa Monica, Calif. “And when I got it, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content