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.
SAG-AFTRA has called the initial suit’s claims “completely without merit” and a “virtual verbatim restatement” of the 2007 class action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and others accusing SAG of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties. That case was resolved in 2010 with a settlement.
The union was repped by Bob Bush of Bush Gottlieb.