Pension Problem in Hollywood

Release date: November 11, 2020
Duration: 54min
Guest(s): Ted Siedle and Pete Antico
Ted Siedle and Pete Antico rich dad radio show

My co-author, Ted Siedle, and I came up our new book Who Stole My Pension?. It's one of the most disturbing and gut wrenching books you can read. Especially for the old guys like me, who are baby boomers. People have worked their entire lives and they're going to discover that somebody walked off with their pensions. And if you think there's an economic crisis coming up, it's really the pension crisis. Because ever since around 2008, when the government started dropping interest rates, pensions have not performed. And so we have this massive, massive shortfall plus we have toxic assets, fake assets being pumped into them by Wall Street. And then there's looting and incompetence. He's the biggest whistleblower because he knows how they steal.

Pete Antico also joins Robert and Kim on today’s episode. Pete is an actor, stuntman, macro economic scholar, and he's the Hollywood guy talking about Hollywood pensions and what's happening there.

Pete Antico:

“The Hollywood pensions are very interesting, because most people in the United States believe that if you're in Hollywood, or you're an actor, you automatically make millions of dollars. And our union has about 160,000 members, about close to half of those members make zero they make no money. I call them vanity card holders, they get into the union or Taft Hartley, and they never work.

“The people that actually earn their living, maybe there's 80,000. Or maybe closer to 70 to 80,000 people actually make money. But I think out of that only maybe 15% to 20% actually earn a living solely from being an actor, or as a stuntman, or from working or contracts. So the pensions have been around for a long time to protect the actors, and they actually went on strike that's on the '60s to actually gain attention from the AMPTP. Which, is the producers, our employers.

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“And lately it's been interesting, because we have a multi employer benefit plan. And, it's not like you both know extremely well. So, it's interesting that in the biggest bull market in the history of the country, now even from the Great Recession from 2009 to 2020. In the beginning, when the stock market was up about 300%. And yet our pension plans funding ratios went down when 1.5 to 2% a year, albeit two 19 it was only half percent what we went down. And I remember when they came in and said, ‘Oh, we have the Pension Protection Act, it allows you to smooth your liabilities out over 10 years.’

“Because, the pension was considered in the yellow zone are starting to be underfunded under 8%. And when it went down to 76 and a quarter, which it is now, they said automatically, "It's in the green zone." And I said, "Well, how is that?" With a stroke of a pen, with a law, you're trying to tell me that automatically gave you more money, to fund your plan with a stroke of a pen? Because, you allow people to call yourself in the green zone with no extra finance to back it up. So, these things that they tell people are a bit fraudulent and duplicitous in my humble opinion, I'd love to know your opinion on it.”

And how did Pete Antico manage to make it onto the Rich Dad Radio show?

Ted Siedle:

“Reason he contacted me. It's because he bought the book (Who Stole My Pension). He read the book, and was impressed with it, and he's a big follower of yours Robert.

“We started talking about pension issues. I mean, the subtitle or the byline to Who Stole My Pension is, how can you stop the looting? So Pete, and I think a lot of actors in Hollywood, are aware that their pension is not giving them the kind of retirement security they had hoped for or had been promised. They're seeing problems or seeing under performance of the investments, toxic investments, hedge funds, all kinds of private equity, crazy deals. And so that's what I think what drew him to the book and what caused him to contact me.”

Hollywood pensions

When asked about what the average stuntman receives as a pension when they retire, Pete provides the following insight:

“This is like a two prong question. I have been doing this 41 years. And if you believe it or not, I don't qualify for a full pension until I'm 65 years old, even though I've worked for 41 years. And if I was in New York and I worked as a policeman and fire, I get two pensions. One in 20 years. Our staff, for instance, they get a full pension after 20 years of service, and they double our pension. Their pension caps are 215,000, performers caps are 96,000. And if you retire at 55 you get a 30% hit for that, less than that.

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“So it's pretty unconscionable that an employee can work 20 years. And they also get the best consecutive five years of their earnings, which are normally their last five years. So, there's things that are potential like pension spiking and getting raises the last five years. I'd like to take the best five years consecutive of my pension I begin well over $100,000 a year for my pension and many of the people that I know that have been successful, we'd get that. So in about 2004. It was something that they did I call it self [inaudible 00:17:45]. The staff, the management side, and the active side of our pension. Gave the staff, those much higher rates…

“The staff of SAG AFTRA, the employees of SAG AFTRA, and the employees of the pension plan. They voted themselves up over double our pension. And then in 2008, when the financial crisis happened. [inaudible 00:18:19] three and a half percent, but they brought the actors and performers down to 2% and they left the staff at three and a half percent. Now that's self all the way around.”

For those not familiar with the acronym SAG it stands for Screen Actors Guild. SAG pertains to professional performers, some voiceover artists, actors, singers, dancers, and puppeteers, stunt people, for a short list. SAG often boasts numbers of 160,000 members strong. But according to Pete, over half never make a dime chasing their dreams.

Pete continues:

“The 15% that you (Kim) spoke of before. Out of the 15% that earn a living making the big money, you're only talking maybe 3% the people that make millions are very, very, very small amount of the group. So most of the people that do commercials and... Oh sorry, commercials is also a part of the Screen Actors Guild or now SAG AFTRA. Those people are great people. They're like the rank and file, salt of the earth I love them. A lot of beautiful creative people that just want to feed their families get health care, like everybody else. That works at a job anywhere, and when we look at what our pensions invested in. I was always concerned since 2009, I had been writing letters to the president of the plan and telling him to put 10% of the market rate of our assets into physical gold.

“Because gold in my opinion, protection against inflation. And deflation is a serious student of Dow Theory. I used to love Richard Russell recipes. Richard Russell was awesome used to talk to boys used to say... Well, he didn't like Keynesian economics, and he will always say, "You can't cure the problem of overloading and overspending with more of the same. That's a definition of insanity. Because, look all it does is inflate currency."

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Military pensions

Robert asks Ted about what happens to federal employees, people who work for the military, or federal government, do they have pensions, or are they on the Treasury's asset financial statement.

Ted’s answer:

“Well, the military as a pension plan. We got into this on a talk radio show we did once. We get some questions about the military pensions. And I did a little research and found that David Stockman (Ronald Reagan’s budget director)... dared to write a paper about the structure and management of the military pension fund, and he almost got his head ripped off for that. And I don't think anybody has dared touch it. I wrote a brief article about it in Forbes, and people screamed that, ‘How dare I even question military pension.’ So there are military pensions, there are government pensions, there're different structures. There are some that are like 401K's, and some are like traditional pensions.

“... But one point Pete made just a minute ago, which is one of the things I found traveling around the country is that unions. Which, back in the old days were really focused on improving working conditions, and pay, and pay issues and things. One of the things that the unions have not done in this country over the last 20 years is really grab on to the pension issue. They don't understand how pensions work. And most union members I know say to me, ‘If my union is not out there, watching over my pension, why am I paying dues for what I mean we're not running sweatshops in America anymore. We're not worried about safety conditions so much these days.’ The real issue that worries most American workers is retirement security.

Robert presses Ted to understand who he caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.

Ted’s response:

“Well, the key issue in so many of these financial cases is the Wall Street firm, the investment firm claims they're doing what's best for you. And of course, they're not there's always a secret backdoor kickback scheme. Because these firms are in business first and foremost, to make money for themselves. If they make you money, great if the markets up 10%, and they pay you 2% and pocket 8%. That's everybody's happy in their mind. But so the key issue in whistle blowing cases involving Wall Street usually is conflicts of interest, or how these firms are secretly profiting at the expense of their clients, transferring your wealth to them.

“Well, in the case I was involved with was JPMorgan. But they're all of the Wall Street firms pretty much follow the same business model. And you can see it in their financial results. If Goldman Sachs stock is up, because the company made a lot of money. Where do you think that money came from? Investors, right that's where it comes from. So, it's the business model of Wall Street. And in the long run, that is what gets them in trouble. And that's the whistleblower cases I've been rewarded on have been involved in conflicts of interest and hidden payments, illegal payments, questions like that.”

Final thoughts

Pete Antico:

“I'd like to say everybody buy that book (Who Stole My Pension?). Everybody in the Screen Actors Guild AFTRA buy this book. The book will inform you, it will protect you. Please buy the book, educate yourself. That's the best way to protect yourself.

Grab your copy of Who Stole My Pension? here.

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