Judge Dismisses Most But Not All of Anti-SAG-AFTRA Lawsuit
Monday morning in U.S. District Court, Judge Manuel Real granted almost all of SAG-AFTRA's motions to dismiss and to strike portions of the lawsuit filed against the union by Ed Asner and 15 others alleging improprieties in the distribution of residuals and foreign royalties. Those motions, however, did not seek dismissal of the entire complaint and so the action remains live.
According to plaintiff's attorney Sunny Wise, the lawsuit will continue notwithstanding the hope expressed by the union's counsel, Bob Bush, that the plaintiffs would reconsider their resort to legal action.
"We're not walking away from this," Wise said in an interview after the hearing.
Bush said in an interview that the complaint would have to be rewritten as a result of the judge's dismissal of various claims and his striking of some language as irrelevant. However, Wise noted that Real did not explicitly order her to do this, and added that she doubted Bush would seek to have her do so.
In an e-mail, Bush said "Whether she will be required to redraft the complaint will depend on the judge's order. The judge told us to draft an order. We anticipate that we will address this in our draft."
One effect of the judge's ruling, which was long and detailed, appears to be a whittling down of some of the requests for damages. However, the complexity of the complaint, the SAG-AFTRA motions and the judge’s ruling make this not entirely clear.
As an example, only three of the 16 plaintiffs will be able to pursue claims relating to foreign royalties -- they had opted out of a state court settlement -- but all 16 will be able to pursue some (but not all) of their claims relating to residuals.
Thus, the lawsuit will apparently feature something old -- a retrial of sorts of the settled Osmond case -- and something new, the claims regarding residuals.
Among the portions of the complaint remaining are allegations related to SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White that the involvement of his former consulting company with a law firm controlled by convicted felon Marc Dreier is relevant to the alleged improprieties in the union's conduct of its residuals and foreign royalties operations. Wise signaled that she might bring breach of fiduciary duty claims against White and, it appeared, SAG-AFTRA chief administrative officer and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.
One claim that anti-merger activists have put forward repeatedly -- both prior to and in the lawsuit -- is that by incorporating in Delaware, SAG-AFTRA gave itself more access to residuals due to members the union is unable to locate. The judge rejected that position decisively, saying that the state of incorporation of the holder of funds was legally irrelevant, and that the relevant factor was the member's last known state of residence.
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