×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

Suit alleges mishandling of $110 million in funds

SAG-AFTRA is seeking to dismiss the lawsuit filed by former SAG president Ed Asner and 15 others, which alleged extensive misconduct in its handling of foreign levies and residuals they are owed.

The motion was filed Wednesday in federal court in Los Angeles, asserting that most of the plaintiffs — who filed as members  of  the United Screen Actors Committee — 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 “Leave It to Beaver” actor Ken Osmond.

“What plaintiffs fail to mention in the 52 pages of their complaint is that much of the challenges they raise to SAG-AFTRA’s residuals collection and distribution programs has already been resolved in a judicially approved settlement of virtually identical allegations in a class action lawsuit,” the union said. “While it is generally a good thing when a theatrical or television production is rerun — indeed, such reruns generate the very income that is the subject of this litigation — the opposite is true in litigation.”

The motion said the complaint included “florid and disconnected allegations” that have no relevance to the causes of action.

“This is not the ‘big’ case that plaintiffs portray,” the motion said. “At most it is a speculative claim by no more than 17 of the 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA that they may be owed a very small amount of money.”

The motion also said that only three of the 16 plaintiffs — Steve Barr, Terrence Beasor and Clancy Brown — opted out of the 2010 settlement of the Osmond case, leaving the other 13 barred by the terms of the settlement from bringing this year’s lawsuit, in which Asner is the lead plaintiff.

The suit, filed May 24, alleges that SAG-AFTRA has improperly withheld funds and stonewalled requests for information about $110 million held in trust by the union. Those funds, the suit alleges, have been collected by the union through foreign collecting societies without authorization or knowledge of union members.

At the time of the filing, SAG-AFTRA brushed off the suit, which was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real, and insisted it had done nothing wrong. It asserted that it was “very proud” of  its unclaimed residuals and foreign royalties programs and claimed that actors would not have received the funds without the union’s efforts.

On July 27, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland reported the union’s foreign royalties program has distributed more than $17.5 million to performers since inception —  $3.5 million higher than what SAG-AFTRA disclosed in May, when it said that it had distributed over $14 million in foreign royalties.

The foreign funds began to flow two decades ago as compensation for reuse, such as taxes on video rentals, cable retransmissions and purchases of blank videocassettes and DVDs.

The suit alleges that SAG-AFTRA has often claimed an inability to locate the actors to whom it owes money and that such funds should have escheated to the state of California. Additionally, the action alleges that the union has withheld information by filing incomplete LM-2 annual reports with the U.S. Dept of Labor and by seeking to seal court records.

SAG and AFTRA members voted to merge in March, 2012.

The suit alleges that SAG created a “producers share” of performers funds which it began disbursing to the employers of union members more than a decade before any member received any portion of the monies. It also also accuses SAG of operating a slush fund via collected foreign royalties on behalf of AFTRA and other show business craft unions.

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

Besides Asner, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include former board members Barr, Brown and George Coe along with Beasor, Tom Bower, Dennis Hayden, Alex McArthur, Ed O’Ross, William Richert, Louis Reeko Meserole, Roger Callard, Russell Gannon, Stephen Wastell, James Osburn and Eric Hughes. Richert (“Winter Kills”) filed a similar suit against the Writers Guild of America in 2005 and settled in 2011, and Hughes consulted on the suit.

More Film

  • Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for

    Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for North America

    Magnolia Pictures has bought North American rights to the Romanian crime thriller “The Whistlers” following its premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film stars Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi and George Pisterneanu. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical [...]

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • A QUIET PLACE Emily Blunt

    'A Quiet Place' Sequel Moves Ahead Two Months to March 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved its sequel to “A Quiet Place” ahead by two months from May 15 to March 20, 2020. John Krasinski is returning to direct the still-untitled movie with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprising their roles. Cillian Murphy is joining the cast. “A Quiet Place” grossed $340 million at the [...]

  • Sony Pictures Classics Buys Michael Covino's

    Cannes: Sony Pictures Classics Buys Michael Covino's 'The Climb'

    Sony Pictures Classics has acquired all worldwide rights, excluding France and German-speaking Europe, to Michael Angelo Covino’s buddy comedy “The Climb.” The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Un Certain Regard Heart Prize alongside “A Brother’s Love” on Friday. Covino directed, co-wrote (with Kyle Marvin) [...]

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' Heads for Magical $100 Million Opening in North America

    Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” is heading for at least $100 million in North America during the four-day Memorial Day holiday weekend, early estimates showed Friday. “Aladdin” will likely finish Friday with around $30 million, including $7 million in Thursday night previews. Sony’s launch of horror-thriller “Brightburn” should pull in about $10 million for the holiday weekend and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content