SAG-AFTRA has come out swinging against charges its leaders committed a laundry list of financial misdeeds. On Sunday, the union’s national board of directors released the findings of an independent investigation into the allegations, which wholly exonerated the accused executives. The allegations were looked into by the union’s outside counsel Bush Gottlieb and by Cohen Weiss & Simon, which retained the Bond Beebe accounting firm to conduct a review.
The accusers, a group of actors led by former SAG president Ed Asner that calls themselves the United Screen Artists Committee (USAC), alleged in a 10-page letter that national executive director David White had charged the union for “excessive cell phone usage, including requiring the union to pay for, at various times, seven different numbers, including ones entrusted to his family members.”
USAC, which sued the union four years ago over its alleged mishandling of $130 million in foreign levies – a case it lost in court – also claimed White charged the union for limousine services to attend events, including SAG Awards shows; and used hotel and airline rewards programs for his personal use “while continuing to bill SAG-AFTRA for travel and lodging nationally and abroad. They also claimed he donated unclaimed residuals to not-for-profit organizations on whose boards he sits, flew first class and business class “throughout the world to attend conferences…while utilizing frequent flier mileage to cover members of his family to accompany him to various foreign destinations,” and authorized the expenditure of “millions of dollars for hotels in New York and Los Angeles, where non-members, including relatives, were provided lodging and were wined and dined at union expense.”
Similar claims of misusing expense accounts were also leveled against COO and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and senior advisor John McGuire.
The full report (read it here) exonerated the executives, which found that “all reimbursements were paid in accordance with SAG-AFTRA’s written policies, procedures and other documents. We did not find any evidence of any inappropriate reimbursements as alleged in the USAC letter.”
On Sunday, after releasing the report of the investigation, the union’s national board of directors voted unanimously to express its “full confidence in and appreciation for” White, Crabtree-Ireland and McGuire, who it said were “unjustifiably and baselessly targeted.” The letter accusing them was issued on the eve of the union’s ongoing film and TV contract talks, which has now hit a major roadblock.
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris previously said the accusers should be “deeply ashamed. After years of failed attempts to derail the success of this union through deceitful litigation, they are putting our members at risk on the eve of our most important contract negotiations. Their repeated pursuit of frivolous politics merits utter contempt.”