Bruce Dow, the beleaguered chief executive of the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans, which have been rocked by allegations of misconduct, has taken a leave of absence.
Dow has "requested and been granted a leave of absence from his duties," trustees for the plans said late Wednesday. In an interview, the veteran plan manager said he requested a 60-day break on medical grounds and is not resigning his post.
The pension plans' chief operating officer, Christopher Dowdell, will take on day-to-day management responsibilities, the trustees said.
Dow's departure comes in the wake of growing concerns about lack of financial control of an organization that governs more than $2 billion in assets on behalf of the Screen Actors Guild's 125,000-plus members.
U.S. Labor Department officials have been investigating claims that another former senior pension plans executive allegedly embezzled millions of dollars by receiving kickbacks from several companies that did business with the funds.
After an audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in early 2009, SAG-PPHP sued two vendors involved in the alleged scheme. In one of the cases, the plans obtained a final judgment from an arbitrator who awarded them damages of nearly $2.5 million, which a court approved. The plans said most of the money was recovered from an insurance claim.
The alleged embezzlement scheme surfaced publicly in a complaint that former human resources director Craig Simmons filed in September with the Labor Department.
In his complaint, Simmons contended that he had been wrongfully terminated in March partly for raising questions about the embezzlement scheme and for raising questions about Dow's conduct, including allegations that Dow steered business to his wife's insurance company, USI of Southern California.
A recent Times story noted that Simmons himself was involved in directing the plans' money to his own spouse's marketing company, according to internal invoices and emails. Simmons denied any wrongdoing and said his bosses were aware of the arrangement.
The board of trustees recently said an independent investigator had found that most of Simmons' allegations were false and told SAG members that the fiscal integrity of the plans "remains sound and your benefits are secure."