In a sign that there is more here than meets the eye, prominent litigator Greg Smith, who has a long track record of winning large claims on behalf of fired public sector employees especially police officers and firemen, has taken on the case of Craig Simmons, the fired senior staff member of SAG’s pension and health plan.
According to a copy of the complaint posted on the site of Deadline Hollywood, Smith has filed a suit against the plan and as yet unnamed individuals for wrongful termination in connection with Simmons’ complaints about wrongdoing by the CEO of the $2 billion Plan, Bruce Dow, and others. Smith was profiled in the Los Angeles Times recently in connection with his campaign for the position of Los Angeles city attorney. Smith is joined in representing Simmons by Los Angeles attorney Robert Stanford Brown. (Brown is the son of Hall of Fame football player Bob “The Boomer” Brown, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders.)
The new lawsuit comes as SAG itself is being sued by its own members for failing to provide union members adequate information about the future of the pension and health care plan in connection with an ongoing vote to merge SAG with sister guild AFTRA. A decision on the latter suit is expected any day now as a planned hearing scheduled for Monday was recently vacated by the judge, which indicates that he is close to deciding the case based on the papers already in front of him. No doubt, a copy of the Simmons complaint will also be filed with the federal court considering the request for an injunction to stop the merger proposal.
Simmons was fired last year. A letter he wrote detailed numerous allegations about wrongdoing by Dow and others at the pension plan. Near the end of the year, CEO Dow left the fund temporarily on leave in connection with a health issue and has not yet returned to his position. There is speculation that the leave was aimed at easing him out of the fund.
Meanwhile, a report on Deadline that the Plan was the subject of a federal investigation led the Plan’s trustees, which include both labor and management representatives, to admit publicly that the Department of Labor was conducting a field audit of the fund, the toughest form of audit that the DOL can conduct of a pension plan. Deadline has reported that other federal agencies are looking at the fund, but the trustees appeared to deny that possibility.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that yet another senior official of the fund known to be an opponent of Dow was also fired today.
In light of this information it would not be surprising if the attorneys representing AFTRA in the merger would have some tough questions for SAG about the risks that AFTRA might be taking on board if the merger were to proceed.
As information comes out, this post will be updated.