When Bruce Dow resigned under pressure as longtime head of the Screen Actors Guild’s pension and health plans in April 2012 amid allegations of extensive self-dealing, a good deal of unfinished business remained. Now the workload has gotten smaller. On November 12, former plan chief information officer Nader Karimi pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to omitting more than $700,000 in income on his tax returns for the years 2005 through 2008. Karimi had changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” before U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin. Sentencing, originally set for March 11, has been reset for April 14. He faces up to three years in prison. The plea follows a probe by the FBI, the IRS, and the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.
In the world of high-level office politics, a leave of absence set against the backdrop of scandal all too often is a prelude to resignation. That's the way it played out at the Screen Actors Guild. On April 25, the union's longtime Producers Pension and Health Plans (SAG-PPHP) CEO, Bruce Dow, resigned his position, effective April 30, in the face of a wrongful termination suit filed in California state court on March 22 by a former plan official, Craig Simmons. Dow, on disability leave since January, had announced his intent to retire in March. Simmons' suit, which follows his complaint of last September with the U.S. Department of Labor, alleges Dow and loyalists embezzled millions of dollars in SAG benefits and then stonewalled probes. The plans' interim head is its chief operating officer, Christopher Dowdell. Dow will remain as a consultant.
It has the raw material for a movie. The plot, so far, is incomplete. Over the last few months the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has been rocked by public allegations by a former benefits executive that top officials of SAG-sponsored benefit plans, including CEO Bruce Dow, looted between $5 million and $10 million. The whistleblower, Craig Simmons, who had been fired a half-year before, this September filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor requesting that DOL conduct criminal and civil probes. Simmons also alleges that Dow instructed him to deceive trustees and authorities about the losses. The Labor Department has yet to comment on whether it has begun an investigation. Lawyers for the SAG, which controls about $2.5 billion in plan assets, are denying all charges. Yet significantly, the union hired an investigator to conduct a review, since completed.