EXCLUSIVE: At a time when every segment of our industry is struggling with layoffs and furloughs because of the coronavirus pandemic, the $9.3 billion owed to many that is just sitting there in a California state Unclaimed Property fund might well come in handy.
The state of California owes the Motion Picture & Television Fund $24,025 – money the MPTF could sorely use right now in its efforts to provide assistance to the industry’s suddenly unemployed workforce, while itself dealing with the first COVID-19 outbreak at its skilled nursing facility in Woodland Hills.
The money owed is part of the State Controller’s $9.3 billion Unclaimed Property fund, which includes some 48 million separate accounts. The money held in more than 100 MPTF accounts includes forgotten checks, savings accounts, dividends, accounts payable, and commissions that were turned over to the state after sitting idle in banks for more than three years. The eight largest MPTF accounts hold more than $16,000.
“The Controller is safeguarding millions of unclaimed properties for Californians,” Jennifer Hanson, press secretary to State Controller Betty Yee, told Deadline. “From an account that sat dormant for too long, to a final paycheck that never got picked up, people should check to see if any of those properties belong to them. In challenging times, even a small find could make a big difference.”
Because accounts can be spread out over various – and often incorrect – versions of a business’ name, they can be difficult to locate on the Controller’s searchable database. The MPTF’s unclaimed funds are listed under 13 different permutations of the Motion Picture & Television Fund, including those with and without the ampersand, and one under MPRF – the acronym for the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which was the name of the fund when it was founded in 1921.
“We have property-owner advocates to help groups locate multiple properties,” Hanson said. “They’re here to help.”
Businesses can get assistance locating and applying for unclaimed funds here.
Many of the industry’s other charities and non-profits also have money sitting in the Unclaimed Property fund as well, gathering dust – and no interest. Among them:
• Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation has an uncashed cashier’s check for $1,000
• The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (misidentified in the searchable database as the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation) is owed $2,702 in dividends
• The Sundance Institute has $5,000 in accounts receivable
• Women In Film is owed more than $4,000
• The Entertainment Industry Foundation is owed $3,000
• The NAACP Image Awards is owed $2,500
• The Mary Pickford Foundation is owed $1,500
• The American Film Institute is owed $1,350
• The Actors Fund is owed $228
• The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is owed $750
• The Motion Picture Association is owed $5,400
• The Television Academy is owed more than $1,000
• The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is owed more than $1,600
Many of Hollywood’s guilds and unions are also owed money that they could use now as they offer dues relief to their members during the industry’s coronavirus shutdown.
SAG-AFTRA is owed more than $100,000, including an uncashed cashier’s check for $26,139. The union’s pension and health plans are owed more than $5,000. SAG-AFTRA has more than 300 accounts, but none under the name SAG-AFTRA. They’re either listed as SAG, or AFTRA, or SAGAFTRA without the hyphen, or the Screen Actors Guild.
To get an idea of how long some of this money has gone unclaimed, the long-defunct Screen Extras Guild, which the old Screen Actors Guild absorbed in 1992, is still owed $2,088 – money that now rightfully belongs to SAG-AFTRA and its members. And the pre-merger AFTRA pension and welfare fund is still owed more than $5,000. AFTRA and SAG merged in 2012.
Other industry unions owed money include:
• WGA, more than $30,000
• American Federation of Musicians, more than $8,000
• DGA, more than $5,000
• Actors’ Equity, $700
Various IATSE locals also have money coming to them. The Welfare Trust Fund of IATSE Local 857 – representing Los Angeles’ treasurers and ticket sellers – is owed $2,586. IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco has an account with $3,033 in it; another with $1,200, and its health and welfare fund is owed $1,500.
Here in L.A., Stagehands Local 33’s pension plan has a $1,076 court settlement that it hasn’t picked up for at least three years. The IATSE National Health & Welfare Fund has four accounts totaling $1,576.
The networks, studios and major talent agencies are all owed money as well. Deadline found $8,500 in one Walt Disney Company account, and $7,000 in another. Disney has more than 100 separate accounts – some for as little as 2 cents, but many with hundreds and thousands of dollars in them. UTA has $12,000 in uncashed vendor checks, and an unredeemed $900 cashier’s check.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has about 50 accounts, mostly small, but one containing 623 shares of Trans World Entertainment, which has been sitting unredeemed for at least three years. Three years ago, the stock was worth $21,182 at $34 a share. Today they’re worth 1/10th of that at $3.40 a share.
Major charitable organizations and non-profits like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, the United Way, March of Dimes, the City of Hope, GLADD, Planned Parenthood, the American Red Cross, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Habitat for Humanity, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are owed tens of thousands of dollars that in these historic times could be put to good use.
The state is also holding money for millions of individuals: there are 308,682 separate accounts just for people named Smith. Most are in small amounts – some only pennies – leftover refunds and the like. This reporter is owed $40, but the Controller’s office is holding a $10,000 cashier’s check for director Steven Spielberg.
Click here to see if the Controller is holding money in your name.