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Ex-Official Says SAG Pension Plan Defamed Him

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A former Screen Actors Guild official claims in court that the SAG pension fund defamed him in a letter to thousands of members, "shortly after he reported illegal misconduct and improper behavior of Bruce Dow," CEO of the SAG pension plan.

Craig Simmons sued the SAG-Producers Pension and Health Plans in Superior Court. The Screen Actors Guild itself is not a party to the lawsuit.

Simmons' lawsuit follows a wrongful termination claim he filed against the SAG pension fund in March.

Simmons' new lawsuit repeats many of the allegations from that complaint, but this time alleges only defamation.

Simmons, a former executive director of human resources, claimed that CEO Bruce Dow asked him to lie to a U.S. Department of Labor official investigating whether Dow had paid his brother-in-law as a "phantom employee," and gave insurance business to his wife.

Simmons, who claims he was suspended and fired for refusing to help Dow, accuses his former boss of underreporting millions of dollars embezzled by an employee, and passing on the pension plans' investment information to another organization he headed, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Dow made unspecified "false accusations against" Simmons and then fired him on March 25, after Simmons complained to the SAG Pension and Health Plans' board of trustees, according to the new complaint.

The pension plans, which control roughly $2.5 billion in assets, concluded that Simmons' claims were unfounded, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2011.

"(O)n December 22, 2011, the SAG-PPHP [Producers Pension and Health Plans] board of trustees delivered a letter to thousands SAG plan participants. In this letter, the board of trustees claimed that an independent investigator found that most of plaintiff's allegations were false," Simmons' new complaint states. "Plaintiff is informed and believes that the board of trustees wrote this letter knowing that plaintiff's allegations against Dow were true. However, the board of trustees wrote this letter to the SAG plan participants, in an attempt to protect the SAG-PPHP against a lawsuit by plaintiff. In short, the board of trustees was 'circling the wagons.' The board of trustees signed the letter and ratified its contents by their collective action."

SAG Pension and Health Plans later conceded that a former employee may have misappropriated $2 million, according to The Wrap, an online magazine that covers Hollywood.

Simmons came under scrutiny for allegedly directing money from the fund to his husband's [sic] marketing company, Fortress Communications, according to an October 2011 article in the Los Angeles Times.

The Wrap article reported that Simmons dismissed those allegations as a "false smokescreen."

Dow resigned his post as CEO of the SAG Pension and Health Plans in April, according to another industry website, Deadline Hollywood.

Simmons seeks damages and punitive damages, and costs, for defamation.

He is represented by Gregory Smith of Beverly Hills.

SAG Pension and Health Plans declined to comment.

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