SAG-AFTRA Funds Held in Trust Jump 7.5% to $164.3 Million

SAG-AFTRA’s funds held in trust for others have jumped by 7.5% to $164.3 million since last year, according to the union’s latest filing with the federal government.

Those funds have been at the center of a long-running dispute, dating back to a 2007 suit filed by Ken Osmond (“Leave It to Beaver”) over how foreign royalties and residuals are handled by the union.

The disclosure came in Monday’s filing of SAG-AFTRA’s LM-2 report with the U.S. Department of Labor for the fiscal year that ended April 30 in the category of “Funds Held in Trust for Others.” The 2014 report listed those funds at $153.04 million, a 16% jump from 2013’s figure of $132.26 million.

SAG-AFTRA was not immediately available for comment. In 2014, the union insisted that the majority of funds held in trust relate to production security deposits and residuals reserves — and that only a very small portion of these funds relate to foreign royalties.

However, the union has never provided any specific breakdown of the numbers. The report was signed by union president Ken Howard and secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino. Howard is seeking re-election and running against Patricia Richardson, while Aquino is no longer his running mate, as in three previous elections.

In a July 31 campaign message to members, Howard said without elaboration that he and his allies had been responsible for the union’s foreign royalties program “that has distributed more than $20 million since inception.” The assertion was one of 24 accomplishments listed by Howard.

In May 2013, Ed Asner and 15 other union members filed suit, alleging SAG-AFTRA had improperly withheld $132 million in funds and stonewalled requests for information about the money held in trust by the union — including domestic residuals and foreign royalties collected by the union through foreign collecting societies without authorization or knowledge of union members.

The suit also alleged the union has cashed residuals checks and then claimed an inability to locate the actors to whom it owes money. A federal judge dismissed the suit in January 2014, finding the union had been sufficiently cooperative in providing access to its materials. But the jurist also indicated that the plaintiffs would be able to revisit the issue.

Eric Hughes, one of the plaintiffs in the Asner suit, said Wednesday in response to the new LM2 report: “SAG-AFTRA is in violation of federal law by failing to separately identify every major receipt of funds and every major disbursement of funds during the reporting period.”

Hughes also said, “SAG-AFTRA’s so-called task force on education targeting members does not have in its curriculum the laws which make it possible for members to regulate their union. A task force on education engaging senior staff might energize and mobilize SAG-AFTRA into compliance with the reporting requirements of U.S. labor law.”

The funds held in trust are by far the largest component of the $196 million in liabilities listed in the report. Assets are listed at $229.1 million.

Osmond settled his case in 2011 and SAG and AFTRA merged in March 2012. SAG’s fiscal 2012 report listed $100.48 million for the “Funds Held in Trust for Others” category, 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 four LM2 reports broke down the funds further.

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