EXCLUSIVE: More than 1,000 actors have signed an online petition calling for a forensic audit of the $3 billion SAG Pension & Health Plans. The petition campaign is in response to allegations of a cover-up of malfeasance and the recent conviction of Nader Karimi, the Plans’ former chief information technology officer, who was sentenced to five years’ probation last month for filing a false tax report by failing to report more than $700,000 in kickbacks he received from contractors he’d hired to upgrade the Plans’ computer system.
Among those signing the petition on Change.org are actors Peter Coyote, Rosanna Arquette, Ernie Hudson, Karen Allen, Alfred Molina, Jean Smart and SAG-AFTRA board members Frances Fisher, Joanna Cassidy and Robin Riker.
“A transparent union is a powerful union,” Molina wrote on the petition.
“I’m signing because nobody is listening to us,” Fisher wrote.
“There has been no independent investigation or qualified (forensic) audit into the Plan’s fiscal health,” the petition states. “Furthermore, the Department of Labor has had both civil and criminal investigations of SAG Pension & Health Plans open since 2009.”
Karimi was at the center of an alleged multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme that led to the downfall of Bruce Dow, the Plans’ longtime chief administrator. Dow, who has not been charged with a crime, fired Karimi in 2009 after discovering he’d been taking kickbacks from outside tech venders to whom he’d awarded lucrative contracts.
Dow resigned in 2012 after Craig Simmons, the Plans’ former executive director of human resources, accused him of covering up Karimi’s kickback scheme, a charge Dow denied. That case was settled in a confidential arbitration in 2014.
There was a routine audit of the Plans last year, which found the Plans’ financial statements to be in order, but it wasn’t the kind of forensic audit that investigates malfeasance.
The petition asks that the audit be conducted before the merger of the SAG and AFTRA health plans, which is expected later this summer. The petition is also calling for a forensic audit of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds.
“There needs to be a forensic audit of the SAG Pension & Health Plans and the AFTRA Health & Retirement Plans. There has been corruption in the SAG P&H Plan and before we merge with the AFTRA Health Plan we need to know exactly where we stand,” Riker wrote. “Why doesn’t our staff respond to the questions of the membership when it comes to answering the issue of embezzlement at the SAG P&H Plan? Even Bruce Dow, the CEO of the Plan, acknowledged he didn’t know how much money had been embezzled.”
“My future will be affected greatly by these decisions and we need to move forward with a clear fiscal understanding of where we will all stand as the Plans join,” Allen wrote.
“I am signing this because I receive a pension (upon) which I depend,” Coyote wrote. “Great accumulations of money (have) always tempted people to commit malfeasance. Fiduciary responsibility would demand an accounting and investigation by board members. What’s going on?”
Arquette said that she signed “Because this is confusing and wrong. I have worked for 40 years for insurance. This is wrong.”
Smart wrote that the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA “has let us down and we are much less protected than before!”
“It is our union. It must be pristine. Above reproach,” Joyce Van Patten wrote.