×

Battle Escalates Over $100 Million-Plus Of SAG-AFTRA Funds

Federal filing shows union's funds soared to $132.3 million

The battle over SAG-AFTRA’s funds held in trust has escalated in the wake of Ed Asner’s lawsuit alleging misconduct over how the union handles over $100 million of such monies.

The long-running firefight, dating back to a 2007 lawsuit filed by “Leave It to Beaver” actor Ken Osmond, received additional fuel via SAG-AFTRA’s LM-2 report filed last week with the U.S. Department of Labor. The report for the fiscal year ended April 30 listed that the “Funds Held in Trust for Others” category totalled $132.26 million.

That’s a substantial increase over the funds listed in last year’s reports from SAG and AFTRA, which merged in March, 2012.  SAG’s fiscal 2012 report listed $100.48 million for the same item while the AFTRA LM2 national report listed a total of $11 million including $7.53 million of funds due to members that the union could not locate.

None of the reports broke down the funds further. A SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said, “The increase in these funds is primarily due to more and larger producer’s deposits received over the last fiscal year.”

That’s prompted a blistering response from the attorney for Asner and 15 other who filed the lawsuit as the United Screen Actors Committee. Sunny Wise told Variety that the lack of disclosure in the LM-2 filing is unacceptable.

“The sudden increase in monies held in trust by $20 million shows exactly why USAC is seeking transparency in federal court,” Wise said. “USAC was created to try and convince the leadership of SAG-AFTRA that the union must be accountable to its membership.”

SEE ALSO: Ed Asner, 15 Others Sue SAG-AFTRA Over Unpaid Funds (EXCLUSIVE)

The suit, filed on May 24 in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that SAG-AFTRA has improperly withheld funds and stonewalled requests for information about $110 million held in trust by the union. The suit alleges that the union receives those funds from collected residuals as well as through foreign collecting societies without authorization or knowledge of union members.

SAG-AFTRA has denied any wrongdoing and filed a motion to dismiss the suit on July 31. The motion asserted that the plaintiff lack the standing to litigate the issues. The union, which asked for a hearing on Oct. 7, also asserted that the issues raised by the suit have already been resolved in the 2010 settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Osmond.

SEE ALSO: SAG-AFTRA Seeks Dismissal Of Ed Asner Suit Over Unpaid Funds

Wise said that the refusal of the union’s leadership to engage in any dialogue made the federal lawsuit necessary.

“The wrongful withholding of residuals and foreign royalties — and constantly changing reports about what has been received and what has been disbursed if not diverted elsewhere — demonstrates precisely why accountability and a proper and thorough accounting of all funds received by the merged union as well as their predecessors is warranted,” she said. “It is a sad day when a labor organization claims it has the right to do with all monies It collects as it pleases.”

Wise also asserted that USAC believes the actual amount of funds for members that SAG and AFTRA have collected without disclosure is far larger than the $132 million listed in the LM-2.

“Any suggestion that SAG/AFTRA has the right to do with said monies as it pleases, evidences a total disregard for the obligations of a labor organization to remain accountable to its membership,” she added.

In response, SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland reiterated the union’s position that most of the funds are deposits by producers — but did not disclose specific numbers.

“The majority of funds held in trust relate to production security deposits and residuals reserves – funds that will be returned to producers unless they breach their obligations under SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements,” he said. “The amount of these funds held fluctuates greatly depending on production activity and production budgets. Only a very small portion of these funds relate to foreign royalties, and those funds are only held temporarily while they are allocated and distributed.”

Crabtree-Ireland also defended how the “foreign royalty” funds are distributed, reiterating the position that members would not have received the funds without the union’s efforts.

“Inflammatory rhetoric cannot change the reality that the only foreign royalty-related funds retained by SAG-AFTRA are the board- and court-authorized 10% administrative fee and any interest that may accrue during processing,” he said. “SAG-AFTRA is justifiably proud of its foreign royalties program that has singlehandedly delivered to our members more than $15 million from foreign collections that would otherwise have been lost forever.”

He also said denied that SAG-AFTRA is withholding information and accused the plaintiffs in the Asner suit of being out of step with the rest of the union’s membership.

“As to transparency and disclosure, labor unions like SAG-AFTRA have some of the most extensive and stringent financial disclosure requirements of any organization,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “Members who wish to delve into the financial details of their union have access to more than 450 pages of annual reporting available online from the Department of Labor. SAG-AFTRA members seem to be more than satisfied with the level of detail and transparency these disclosures provide – with the exception of those who are engaged in repeated, unnecessary litigation against their own union.”

 

 

 

More Film

  • Azania Muendane

    Locations Africa Expo Sends Message in Durban: ‘Africa is Ready’

    DURBAN–The first edition of the Locations Africa Expo and Conference was held this week during the Durban FilmMart, with an eye toward identifying and growing the opportunities to lure incoming productions to the continent. “Locations Africa is trying to service a need on the continent to discuss the physical production…on the ground, highlighting film commissions, [...]

  • The Lion King

    China Box Office: 'Looking Up' is Surprise Weekend Winner Ahead of 'Lion King'

    Actor and comedian Deng Chao underlined his enduring popularity with mainstream Chinese audiences, delivering a surprise number one hit in “Looking Up.” It scored $38.6 million in its opening weekend, according to data from consultancy Artisan Gateway, and displaced “The Lion King” from its previous perch. “Looking Up” is a family comedy about a father’s [...]

  • Unathi Malonga

    Report Urges South African Media to ‘Step Up’ Against Gender Violence

    DURBAN–In a country with some of the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence in the world, South African media must step up and play a greater role in the fight against gender inequality and gender-based violence. That was the conclusion of a report, “Gender, Diversity and Gender-based Violence in South African TV,” that was [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content