SAG pension and health plans chief Bruce Dow resigns
Bruce Dow, the beleaguered chief executive of the Screen Actors Guild pension and health plans, has resigned.
Dow, who had been on a medical leave of absence since January, was expected to step down in the wake of a mounting controversy over a lack of financial control of an organization that controls more than $2 billion in assets on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild's 125,000-plus members.
The board of trustees for the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans said in a statement that it had appointed Chris Dowdell, the current chief operating officer, as interim CEO.
"It is with great regret that we accept our CEO Bruce Dow's decision," the statement said. "For the last 28 years, Bruce has been instrumental in assisting the trustees in designing and managing many of the benefit programs actors enjoy today."
U.S. Labor Department officials have been investigating reports that another former senior pension plans executive allegedly embezzled millions of dollars by receiving kickbacks from several companies that did business with the funds.
After an audit in early 2009, SAG-PPHP sued two vendors involved in the alleged scheme. In one of the cases, an arbitrator awarded the plans nearly $2.5 million in damages, which a court approved. The plans said most of the money was recovered from an insurance claim.
The alleged embezzlement scheme surfaced publicly in a complaint that former Human Resources Director Craig Simmons filed in September with the Labor Department. In his complaint, Simmons contended that he had been wrongfully terminated in March 2011 partly for raising questions about the alleged embezzlement and for raising questions about Dow's conduct, including allegations that Dow steered business to his wife's insurance company, USI of Southern California.
The board of trustees later said an independent investigator had found that most of Simmons' allegations were false and told SAG members that the fiscal integrity of the plans "remains sound and your benefits are secure." There was no finding by the board that Dow was involved in a coverup.
-- Richard Verrier