Dow takes leave as CEO of SAG Producers Pension and Health Plans
Bruce Dow, the embattled chief executive of the Screen Actors Guild Producers Pension and Health Plans, has stepped down.
Dow has "requested and been granted a leave of absence from his duties,'' trustees for the plans said in a statement, declining to elaborate on the reasons for the action.
The statement said the pension plans' Chief Operating Office Christopher Dowdell will take on day-to-day management responsibilities and will "work in concert with the board of trustees and executive management team."
Dow's departure comes in the wake of growing questions about the level of financial controls within an organization that governs more than $2 billion in assets on behalf of Screen Actors Guild members.
Federal Labor Department officials have been investigating claims that another former senior executive in the plans allegedly embezzled millions of dollars by receiving kickbacks from several companies that did business with the funds.
Following an audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in early 2009, SAG-PPHP sued two vendors involved in the alleged scheme. In one of the cases, the plans obtained a final judgment from an arbitrator who awarded them damages of nearly $2.5 million, which the court approved. The plans said most of the money was recovered from an insurance claim.
The alleged embezzlement scheme publicly surfaced in a complaint another former employee, Craig Simmons, filed last September with the Labor Department, contending he had been wrongfully terminated for raising questions about the embezzlement scheme and other alleged improprieties.
Simmons, a former human resources director who was fired in March, said in his complaint to the Labor Department that he was blackballed for raising questions about Dow's conduct, including allegations that Dow steered business to his wife's insurance company, USI of Southern California, and arranged for a "phantom" job for his brother-in-law.
A recent Times story noted that Simmons himself was involved in directing fund money to his spouse's marketing company, according to internal invoices and emails. Simmons denied any wrongdoing and said his bosses were aware of the arrangement.
In a recent statement, the board of trustees said that an independent investigator had found most of Simmons' allegations were false. "Based on the results of the investigation, we can assure you that the fiscal integrity of the SAG-PPHP remains sound and your benefits are secure," the trustees said in their statement.
— Richard Verrier