UPDATED: In a not-unexpected ruling, a federal judge has dismissed the multimillion-dollar foreign residuals suit brought by former union boss Ed Asner and more than a dozen others against SAG-AFTRA. The ruling (read it here) filed yesterday comes just weeks before the actors union is expected to begin negotiations with producers on a new three-year labor contract, the first since SAG and AFTRA merged in 2012. It lifts what could have been a black cloud over those talks – a June 24, 2014 trial date had been set.
“We are pleased with the judge’s order and believe the complete dismissal is fully warranted,” SAG-AFTRA Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said today in a statement. “The Court acknowledged SAG-AFTRA’s ongoing cooperation with the plaintiffs. SAG-AFTRA has more than 1,000 pages of annual disclosure documents available online to anyone. Despite this unfortunate and unnecessary litigation, we remain focused on collecting and distributing foreign royalties and unclaimed residuals, programs of which we are justifiably proud. We hope that this dismissal will mark an end to such lawsuits that needlessly expend union resources.”
In November, the union moved to have tossed the remaining elements of the suit originally filed in spring 2013 by Asner and the 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee. Despite protests last month from the plaintiffs (they called the union’s check-converting practices “willy-nilly”), U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real on Monday ruled for the union. Asner and the United Screen Actors Committee first filed suit in May 2013 for more than $130 million over allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals. In October, Real granted the union’s motion to dismiss a large portion of the suit — though he did not cut the residuals aspect of the claims, giving certain plaintiffs the right to move forward. An amended complaint was filed October 23.
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Almost a month ago, SAG-AFTRA sought to toss out of court the remaining portions of a multimillion-dollar residuals suit filed by former SAG President Ed Asner and 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committe. This week, the plantiffs rejected that idea and fired back at the union, which they say has “clearly taken advantage of its role as a fiduciary” and it members. “SAG-AFTRA simply does not record what is earned but it willy-nilly converts checks as it sees fit, by either endorsing checks made out to performers and placing same into its purported Trust Account, or by holding onto performers checks for months if not years on end to the ongoing detriment of its members who depend on these earnings to live,” Tuesday’s 26-page federal court filing says. The union must be “held accountable for misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance in these and other regards,” it adds. Asner and the United Screen Committee first filed suit over more than $130 million in allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals on May 24. A hearing on the union’s November request for dismissal and motion to strike is scheduled for January 6 in front of District Judge Manuel Real. In the fall, the judge set a June 24, 2014 trial date in the case.
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In a legal move that comes as no surprise, the union today moved to have the remaining elements of the multi-million dollar suit filed by former SAG President Ed Asner and the 15 other members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee tossed out of court. In filings (read them here and here) Wednesday in federal court, SAG-AFTRA lawyers said that the amended complaint by the plaintiffs is covered by federal labor law not state law as they are asserting and should be dismissed. The union also says Asner and the United Screen Committee, who first filed their suit on May 24, are over-reaching in their claims of representation. “While Plaintiffs can maintain a cause of action on their own behalf alleging that their own funds have been converted, Plaintiffs have no right to possession or transfer of amounts allegedly owed to others and therefore their claims for others must once again be dismissed,” says the motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s first amended complaint. A hearing on the dismissal and motion to strike is scheduled for January 6, 2014. That hearing could see this case come to an end or allow Asner and crew to file another amended complaint. Read More »
The initial suit may have been severely trimmed, but the multimillion-dollar lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA by former SAG president Ed Asner and the 15 members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee now has a trial date: June 24, 2014. District Judge Manuel Real set the date today (read it here), 10 days after the federal judge granted SAG-AFTRA’s motion to dismiss large portion of the suit over $130 million in allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals. The plaintiffs first filed their suit on May 24. The union has called the claims “completely without merit” and a “virtual verbatim restatement” of the 2007 class action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors accusing SAG of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties. That case was resolved in 2010 with a settlement. Still, Judge Real did not cut residuals from the current case and has given three of the original 16 plaintiffs who opted out of the Osmond settlement the right to move forward on unpaid claims. The judge also kept the name of the union’s Executive Director David White and his past associations with a convicted fraudster in the suit, something SAG-AFTRA sought to strike. Plaintiff’s lawyer Helena Wise said last week that she also is thinking about launching an action of breach of fiduciary duty and corruption … Read More »
A federal judge this morning has ruled that a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the union by former SAG president Ed Asner and the 15 members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee will not go forward in its original form. In a hearing downtown, Judge Manuel Real granted large portions of SAG AFTRA‘s motion to dismiss the lawsuit over $130 million in allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals. Asner and the other plaintiffs first filed their suitMay 24. After the hearing, plaintiff’s attorney Helena Wise said “we’re not backing away from this”. The lawyer added that because some aspects of the foreign residuals in the case remain partially intact, she is considering amending the complaint. In his decision today, the judge also granted the majority of SAG AFTRA’s motions to strike portions of the original complaint. He did not agree to strike the naming of the union’s national executive director David White, which could be significant as Wise said today she is also considering launching an action of breach of fiduciary duty and corruption against various union executives including White and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. In the hearing earlier, Wise told the judge that she would likely add White and others to the suit if it was allowed to go forward for their alleged role in the foreign residuals pay-outs. Also outside the courtroom after the hearing, plaintiff Bill Richert accused the union of being “corrupt” from “top to bottom.” Richert and several other plaintiffs attended the hearing today. Asner was not among them. SAG AFTRA lawyer Robert Bush said following the 30-minute hearing that “the complaint will have to be completely re-written”, adding that in his opinion “this is a small case, not a big case”.
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Unsurprisingly, the former union president and the other plaintiffs in their lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals don’t agree with the union’s desire to dismiss the bulk of the case or strike a portion of it. In a series of filings late Monday and early today (read them here & here & here), Ed Asner and the other 15-members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee allege an “extreme web these parties have woven to steal money that rightfully belongs to U.S. performers, if not others as well.” The plaintiffs are urging the federal court to reject the motions SAG-AFTRA filed back on July 31 in response to their initial suit. “Ironically, the very statements which Defendants want to strike portray a Union and its leadership, as well as Labor Consultants, clearly indifferent to federally mandated LMRDA requirements requiring transparency and accountability in Union finances, as well as access to Union contracts, not to mention the right to timely learn about and to vote upon whether to ratify or reject such contracts,” the 10-age opposition to motion to strike also notes.
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More than two months after former union president Ed Asner and over a dozen others filed suit claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals, SAG-AFTRA today took formal aim at their case. In motions filed Wednesday in federal court (read it here), SAG-AFTRA argues that most of the suit should be dismissed. “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,” says the nearly 30-page filing. “The instant lawsuit is a virtual verbatim restatement of the settled Osmond litigation,” it adds. That 2007 action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors was resolved back in 2010. They had accused SAG at the time of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties.
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SATURDAY UPDATE, 10:48 AM: The union says that it will “vigorously respond in the appropriate forum in due course” to the suit filed Friday by former SAG president Ed Asner and others over $110 million in undistributed residuals and royalties. Claiming that they are “proud” and “confident” in their foreign royalties program, SAG-AFTRA admit they haven’t actually seen the filing itself. Still, based on previous correspondence with the plaintiffs, the union calls the claims “completely without merit.” Read statement here:
We are very proud of, and confident in, our unclaimed residuals and foreign royalties programs which distribute millions of dollars to performers every year. The foreign royalties program has successfully distributed to performers more than $14 million — money that would otherwise go uncollected and be lost to them forever. The foreign royalties program was previously subject to a class action lawsuit that resulted in a resolution favorable to the union after intense scrutiny of the program. While we have not been provided with a copy of the current complaint, the claims as presented in the plaintiff’s earlier correspondence have been thoroughly reviewed and are completely without merit. We will vigorously respond in the appropriate forum in due course.
PREVIOUS FRIDAY PM: Actors Ed Asner, Clancy Brown, Dennis Hayden, and George Coe are among the 15 plaintiffs who filed suit today in federal court against SAG-AFTRA for not properly disbursing $110 million in foreign residuals they say have not been paid out. Asner is the former SAG president (1981-1985) who very publicly opposed the SAG-AFTRA merger along with other ex-union board members. The 52-page filing (read it here) also claims that the merged union has deliberately withheld information and kept the money in trust and spent portions on first class travel and lavish parties and big salaries for current union officials. “Plaintiffs have reason to believe that SAG-AFTRA has now amassed a substantial slush fund that does not belong to the labor organization but instead belongs to members and non-members, and/or their estates, on covered and uncovered works,” says Friday’s filing. Requesting a jury trial, the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages as well as injunctive relief and an order by the court that would stop the union from being able to collect overseas royalties. Instead, the suit proposes a separate “independent body” established to handle the funds in the future. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Ed Asner is reprising his role (again) on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, playing August March on the cop drama. He originated the role in a 1975 appearance in the first incarnation of the series and returned last year to play the world-class smuggler. His storyline is being extended for the second episode of Season 3, we’re told, and he is headed to Hawaii next week to shoot his scenes. The series is currently in production on the season premiere, which is set to air September 24. The seven-time Emmy winner is plenty busy, as he’s also set to star opposite Alison Sweeney and Greg Vaughn in the Hallmark telefilm Two In, which is shooting in LA for a 2013 premiere. He also just pacted to return to Broadway in the fall to star alongside Paul Rudd and Michael Shannon in Grace, the Craig Wright drama that officially opens October 4 for a limited run. He isrepped by Greene & Associates and manager Perry Zimel.
EXCLUSIVE: Ed Asner is upgrading his status on Hawaii Five-0 from a guest star to recurring. In a very unusual series guest arc spanning 36 years, the multiple Emmy winner will guest star on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 reboot in the spring, reprising the role of August March, which he played in an episode of the original series in 1975.
In a first for the new Hawaii Five-0, footage from the original series will be featured in Asner’s episode. It will be from the actor’s first Hawaii Five-0 appearance in an 1975 episode titled Wooden Model Of A Rat, in which August March (Asner) was an up-and-coming world class smuggler. Now a reformed man after serving 30 years in prison for murder, March lives on O’ahu and is approached by the Five-0 to assist on a smuggling case. “It is thrilling to, for the first time, merge the original Hawaii Five-0 and our new show by having the classic, versatile and award-winning actor Ed Asner reprise his role of August March, a character Mr. Asner first played 36 years ago,” Hawaii Five-0 executive producer/showrunner Peter Lenkov said. “There is no better way to form a bridge between our reboot and the original series.”
Last season, USA Network’s flagship series Royal Pains introduced Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) and Evan R. Lawson’s (Paulo Costanzo) dad Eddie Lawson, played by Henry Winkler. Now the upcoming third season will go down another generation, with veteran Ed Asner tapped for a two-episode arc as Ted Roth, Hank and Evan’s grandfather and Eddie’s dad. Asner, repped by Greene & Associates and manager Perry Zimel, recently starred on CMT’s first sitcom Working Class. He is now touring the country with his one-man show FDR and will next be seen in the HBO movie Too Big to Fail.
Meagan Good has joined Showtime’s dark comedy Californication for a major recurring role. Good, who will appear in nine of the 12 episodes of Californication‘s upcoming fifth season, will play Kali, an extremely hot up-and-coming hip-hop artist. Good, who recently did an arc on BET’s The Game, has three movies coming out in the next month: Jumping the Broom, Video Girl, which she also produced, and 35 and Ticking. She is with Gersh and Untitled.
CMT’s first foray into scripted TV proved short-lived. The music-driven cable network has canceled its first original sitcom, Working Class, after one season. “Unfortunately, CMT will not be pursuing a second season of Working Class,” a note posted today on the show’s Facebook page read. “We’re sad to see it go, but you can still catch Melissa Peterman in new episodes of The Singing Bee.” Working Class stars Peterman as a single mom trying to give her kids a better life by moving them to an upscale suburb. Ed Asner stars as the cranky, surly neighbor and co-worker. Word is the series, created by Jill Cargerman, is now being shopped to other networks, including TV Land. Working Class started off OK, drawing 1.2 million viewers and a .50 rating in adults 18-49 in its January premiere, but slipped subsequently during its run, which concluded with the first-season finale April 1.