SAG Backs Chief In Suit Over Netflix

The Screen Actors Guild moved Nov. 15 to defend national executive director/CEO Bob Pisano against a lawsuit that seeks to force his removal over an alleged conflict of interest in serving on the boar

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The Screen Actors Guild moved Nov. 15 to defend national executive director/CEO Bob Pisano against a lawsuit that seeks to force his removal over an alleged conflict of interest in serving on the board of online DVD rental company Netflix.

The union filed a motion for summary judgment in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking dismissal of the action brought in August by union members Scott Wilson and Tom Bowers.

Attorneys for Pisano and the union will argue their motion Dec. 6, the same day the plaintiffs will seek a summary judgment declaring that the conflict exists and that Pisano should resign.

The courtroom showdown is expected to take place just days after Pisano, the union's chief negotiator, leads SAG in its joint negotiations with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists over a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Those talks are tentatively scheduled to begin the week after Thanksgiving.

"What we're saying is that two members do not have the right to undermine the democratic process that occurs in the boardroom by filing a lawsuit just because they disagree with what the national board says," SAG general counsel David White said.

In addition, the union intervened on Pisano's behalf to protect its institutional interests, including the national board's right to choose its chief negotiator, national executive director/CEO and staff, White said.

Plaintiffs' attorney Chris Katzenbach said there's no disputing that Pisano has a relationship with Netflix, and the DVD rental company has a revenue-sharing relationship with the studios. As a result, he and his clients believe that Pisano cannot negotiate the contract at arm's length.

"This is not an attack on the guild," Katzenbach said. "The guild, as far as I'm concerned, can never come up with an explanation of why this is not a conflict of interest."

To answer other complaints about the Pisano-Netflix relationship, SAG has sanctioned three independent investigations, each of which determined that there was no conflict of interest.

Pisano's stepped-up defense in this case comes two weeks after he staunchly defended his record to the national board, beating back opponents' attempts to oust him on the eve of negotiations.

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