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How Much is the WGA (Still) Ripping Off Writers?

How Much is the WGA (Still) Ripping Off Writers?

Having corresponded with William Richert on a number of occasions, I can testify that the writer-director-actor (“The Happy Hooker,” “Winter Kill,” “A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon”) is a little bit crazy. But he’s also a diligent fighter, an ardent defender of the little guy against corporate powers, and the class-action lawsuit that he filed against the WGA for not paying its members money owed to them from foreign taxes yielded a huge victory for writers everywhere. Last year, the WGA agreed to pay out millions.

But Richert’s fight isn’t over. In an ongoing legal battle, the WGA still hasn’t paid the money, according to Richert, and in a L.A. Superior Court on Monday, Richert complained that the he had “serious concerns” about the implementation of the settlement and accused the WGA of repeatedly delaying payments to members, according to Variety.

Privately, Richert told me he’s owed at least $233,000 in foreign levies for the handful of films he made as an actor, writer and director. But so far, he’s received only about $5,000.

“Based on the checks I got in past 3 years totaling roughly 5K, and multiplying that by the 7 time periods since 1999 = $35,000 + including the 85% the WGA/DGA illegally gave to the studios, my unaccounted for foreign levies would add up to around $233,333 but only if the movies were as burnt out in 1999 in terms of European sales as in 2011,” he writes via email. “THE HAPPY HOOKER has been collecting royalties since the ’70s; split with studios, how much? This does NOT include SAG-collected levies on films I acted in like THE CLIENT and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, no levies sent till 2011. I could be owed 3 times as much, and I’m a recluse and really low on the totem pole in Hollywood. Imagine how much others are owed.”

“No accounting has been provided as stated in the settlement and the WGA firm hired by the union is KMPG, hired without consultation as required by contract, and famous in their world as the most sued U.S. accounting firm in history, with over 19 executives facing criminal charges, working with WGA and SAG for 10 years.”

L.A. Judge Carl West, who is hearing the case, appears to be on Richert’s side. “Our goal is to get these funds out to the people who deserve them,” West said at one point, according to Variety. “It has not been the most effective process.” West ordered the two sides to work out an agreements on the accounting firm and consultants by Oct. 21 and to appear before him again on Oct. 26.

In its 2010 settlement, the WGA agreed to use its “best efforts” to pay all foreign funds within three years and said in July that it was holding $25.38 million “due to members” without breaking out how much of that is from foreign levies, according to Variety.

Richert is pissed. But Judge West told him he still needs to be patient.

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