SAG Producers Pension and Health plan sued

Second suit brought by former exec cites defamation, invasion of privacy

The Screen Actors Guild Producers Pension and Health plan has been sued for a second time by a former exec for defamation and invasion of privacy.

Craig Simmons filed the new suit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the plan had made false allegations in a letter sent to SAG members in December, 2011.

Simmons had filed a wrongful termination suit against the plan in March of this year, alleging he was fired in March, 2011 for reporting allegedly illegal conduct by other plan execs and 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 former plan CEO Bruce Dow and other execs had misused funds for personal benefit.

The board of trustees of the plans, operated separately from SAG, denied Simmons’ allegations in September 2011, retained outside counsel to review the matter and announced via the letter to members three months later that the allegations were baseless.

Simmons was executive director of human resources at the plan. His suit asserts the letter to members was libelous.

“The language in the letter tends to directly injure Plaintiff with respect to his profession, trade, or business by claiming that a Human Resources Manager purposefully made false complaints thereby imputing that he is not qualified to perform the duties of a human resources manager in violation of California Civil Code section 45A” the complaint said.

Dow left the plan in April. Christopher Dowdell, CEO of the plans, issued a one-sentence reaction to the new suit: “We consider the matter of Mr. Simmons to be closed and will not comment on this or any other legal proceedings initiated by him.”

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 plan was at the center of the debate over the merger between SAG and AFTRA, which members approved in March of this year. Merger backers asserted that the SAG-AFTRA combo would increase bargaining strength and represent a first step toward solving the problem of performers not qualifying for coverage under separate plans.

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