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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 Angeles 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.”

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 whistleblower. 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.

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