UPDATE: SAG Pension & Health Plans whistleblower Craig E. Simmons filed a second lawsuit today against his former employers. Today’s suit (read it here) stems from a letter that the SAG-PPHP Board of Trustees sent out to plan participants on December 22, 2011 declaring that Simmons’ allegations of embezzlement against then CEO Bruce Dow were false, according to an independent investigator. “Plaintiff is informed and believes that the Board of Trustees wrote this letter knowing that Plaintiff’s allegations against Dow were true,” says today’s complaint. Seeking a jury trial, the defamation and invasion of privacy suit by the former SAG-PPHP Executive Director of the Human Resources comes after he filed a wrongful termination suit against the organization back on March 22. In that initial suit, Simmons alleges that he was wrongfully terminated on March 25, 2011, because he wouldn’t cover up Dow’s alleged multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme of the SAG-Pension and Health Plans. Dow retired as CEO of the SAG Pension and Health Plans on April 30 of this year.
BREAKING 7:30 PM… EXCLUSIVE… MORE DETAILS… Whistleblower Craig E Simmons today filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer, the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plan. And the fired high-ranking executive makes explosive allegations against CEO Bruce Dow who is still apparently employed there. These accusations have been informally leveled against Dow and the SAG P&HP for months now, but for the first time Simmons puts them into the record via his legal complaint. (Read the 19-page lawsuit here.) If true, they beg for a complete and independent investigation as well as housecleaning at SAG P&HP which governs more than $2 billion in assets on behalf of SAG members.
Simmons was executive director of SAGP&HP human resources and held other top titles, and is a lawyer. One of his attorneys on this lawsuit is the well-known Greg Smith, who is currently running for LA City Attorney. The complaint alleges that Simmons was wrongfully terminated after reporting illegal conduct by CEO Dow. Simmons repeatedly talked and wrote to SAG P&HP trustees and execs and claimed Dow was swindling the organization out of multi-millions. The lawsuit filed in LA Superior Court today alleges that:
– Dow underreported the amount of money embezzled by a former employee,
– Dow was sending insurance business to his wife and pocketing part of the premiums,
– Dow was paying his brother-in-law for doing no work
– Dow was using insider investment information to benefit the International Church Of The Foursquare Gospel where he was a practicing member
– Dow asked Simmons to lie to the trustees and to the Department Of Labor to coverup wrongdoing,
– Dow is guilty of “obstruction of justice”.
These claims are separate from Simmons’ already public allegations made in letters to the trustees about a former SAG P&H Plan employee who embezzled millions from the organization and apparently was never made to account for the missing money or his fraud.
SAG P&H bigwigs and their surrogates have been trying to move heaven and earth to discredit anyone making allegations against the organization, especially while the SAG-AFTRA merger is being voted up or down by the Screen Actors Guild membership right now. The merger plans right now contain no blueprint for how the two unions’ pension and health plans will be conducted because of no formal study by SAG and AFTRA leaders.
Present SAG Guild leadership likes to point out that the SAG P&H Plan is run separately from the union. But some of SAG Guild’s officers have been SAG P&HP trustees. For instance, at the time Simmons was fired, David White was President of the Board of Trustees of the SAG P&H Plans and the National Executive Director of the SAG Guild. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is a Trustee of the SAG P&HP and the General Counsel of the SAG Guild. John McGuire is a Trustee of the SAG P&HP and the Senior Adviser of the SAG Guild.
UPDATE: In January, SAG P&HP said Dow had requested a leave of absence just as the scandal surrounding him was starting to become public. No investigation was ever announced. In my opinion, even the appearance of a coverup must stop immediately and an independent probe begun.]
In documents filed today by his attorneys asking for a jury trial, Simmons alleges that he was wrongfully terminated on March 25, 2011, because he wouldn’t cover up Dow’s alleged multi-million dollar embezzlement scheme of the SAG P&HP. The firing of Simmons, who had been at SAG-PPHP since summer 2008, came just over two months after he had been promoted to HR Executive Director on January 14, 2011. Under the complaint of Labor Code and Public Policy violations by SAG-PPHP, Simmons is seeking punitive damages “in a sum which is an amount appropriate to punish and set an example of said Defendants, to deter such conduct in the future and to set an example for others”.
The lawsuit says that, in the beginning of 2011, Dow was under investigation from the Department of Labor in regards to funneling “SAG-PPHP insurance business to his wife and pocketing a portion of the money on the insurance premiums” and providing a “phantom job” to his brother-in-law. This came, the complaint says, after Simmons had earlier reported to Board trustees Leah French and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland that Dow was “underreporting … fraud incidents by millions of dollars” in regards to another employee stealing from the fund.
In January 2011, Simmons says that, as various other SAG-PPHP employees were being interviewed about the matter by the Labor Department, Dow asked him to “lie to the Department Of Labor investigator by affirming that Dow’s brother-in-law was an employee of SAG-PPHP.” Simmons says he “refused” that request. Simmons says he also refused Dow’s request not to tell the Board about being interviewed by the DOL. Simmons alleges that Dow arranged for “another Plan Executive Amanda Bernard to be interviewed” instead.
I have been inundated with more insider allegations — some of them shocking — about the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plan and the way its Board Of Trustees is running the organization. Look for major updates today.
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that whistleblower Craig Simmons has been telling federal authorities what he knows about the Screen Actors Guild Pension & Health Plan scandal. During October 2011, November 2011, and December 2011, he testified under oath during three sessions in Los Angeles with the FBI, IRS, Securities & Exchange Commission, Department Of Justice, and Department Of Labor inside the Federal Building in Westwood. My information is that the authorities were taking copious notes while Simmons spoke. Insiders also tell me that federal investigations are now ongoing into not just one embezzlement and cover-up inside the SAG P&H Plan but also another fraud and cover-up there which makes two scandals altogether. I understand the FBI asked Simmons not to go public about the probes and he has not spoken publicly about his whistleblowing. [See Simmons' letter here to the SAG P&HP 36 Board Of Trustees, and Simmons' letter here to the Department Of Labor, which led to the federal probes.] So Deadline is the first to break this important news.
My understanding is that when Simmons went in to testify, the feds already had documents in their possession outlining what embezzlements and cover-ups may have taken place. However, I can also now confirm that federal investigators last week and this week arrived at SAG P&H Plan offices in Southern California and in Massachusetts and carried out several dozen boxes of paperwork to unmarked cars waiting outside. (Did Federal Officials “Raid” The SAG P&H Plan Offices?) New information reaching me is that this visit took place on Wednesday, March 7th, and not on Friday, March 9th, as I’d previously reported. And a few weeks earlier a man identifying himself as an investigator came into the offices at 4 PM with a copy machine on big dolly and spent 4 to 5 hours Xeroxing documents. And today New England SAG member James McIsaac wrote on Facebook from Massachusetts that “My local pres just confirmed the FBI picked up some papers at the P&HP office.” I’ve received more confirmations that the visits were in connection with official probes into the SAH P&HP wrongdoing.
In my opinion, it’s a day late and a dollar short for the SAG P&H Plan to come clean about exactly what is going on regarding any and all city, county, and/or federal investigations into allegations of embezzlements and cover-ups. (In fact I am in a possession of an internal SAG P&HP memo instructing staff to tell any callers about my article to say, “No, nothing happened on Friday” — because it took place that Wednesday. Talk about parsing!) Nothing worse than if that organizations is accused of trying to cover-up the cover-up of the fraud. And nothing worse than these probes intensifying during the membership vote on the pending SAG-AFTRA merger. Because no future plans for the two unions’ pension and health plans – not even whether they’ll be operated separately or combined — have been revealed or even formally studied by SAG and/or AFTRA leaderships. Present SAG Guild leadership likes to point out that the SAG P&H Plan is run separately from the union. But some of SAG Guild’s officers have been SAG P&HP trustees. For instance, at the time Simmons was fired, David White was President of the Board of Trustees of the SAG P&H Plans and the National Executive Director of the SAG Guild. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is a Trustee of the SAG P&HP and the General Counsel of the SAG Guild. John McGuire is a Trustee of the SAG P&HP and the Senior Adviser of the SAG Guild.
Craig Simmons, of course, is the veteran SAG P&H Plan high-ranking executive and attorney who first discovered what he alleges are several embezzlement schemes and cover-ups inside the organization.