Wall Street Confidence in Hollywood Studios at Risk if Strikes Prolonged, Says NYC Comptroller

Brad Lander and five pension fund trustees call on Paramount, Comcast and Disney executives to “end the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes promptly”

Comptroller Brad Lander speaks during a rally for immigrant rights at City Hall on May 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The trustees of New York City’s five pension funds, led by Comptroller Brad Lander, have sent letters to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish, calling on the executives to address Hollywood’s ongoing double strike by the Writers’ Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA.

The letter accuses the media companies of implementing business practices that “prioritize short-term profits over long-term sustainability” and argues that their employment model “poses an existential threat not just to the professions of writing and acting, but to the long-term financial stability” of their businesses.

It notes that delays in new scripted content presents a greater risk that consumers will cancel their streaming subscriptions and that the disruption to the writing and production of scripted series intended for fall 2023 debuts will lead to delays in fall broadcast programming and potentially truncated seasons, along with postponed theatrical releases.

Additionally, it warns that the companies risk “financial and reputational harm the longer you refuse to negotiate on core issues facing writers and actors, who enjoy broad support from the public and elected officials.”

“The costs of this disruption are great, and are increasing by the day, along with the financial risk to your company’s market valuation,” Lander’s letter concludes. “We urge your company to end the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes promptly in
order to ensure the long-term stability of your business and your shareholders’ investments.”

The New York City retirement systems collectively manage over $250 billion in assets for New York’s nearly 800,000 current and retired public sector workers.

They own 2.7 million Disney shares valued at $229.2 million, 6.3 million shares valued at $272.7 million in Comcast and approximately 21,000 class A shares and 691,000 class B shares with a combined value of more than $10 million in Paramount.

“My fellow NYCRS trustees and I have a fiduciary duty to safeguard the financial stability of our members’ assets and address issues that may present risks to NYCRS’ investments,” Lander said.

In addition to Lander, the signatories include the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), New York City Fire Pension Fund (Fire), New York City Police Pension Fund (Police) and Board of Education Retirement System (BERS).

The latest push follows a similar move by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli earlier this month, who called on Apple, Amazon, Paramount, Netflix, Disney, Comcast, Sony and Warner Bros. Discovery to “work towards an expeditious settlement.”

DiNapoli serves as trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, one of the largest public pension funds in the United States, which holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of its 1.1 million members, retirees and beneficiaries.

As of March, the fund held positions in Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Disney, Comcast Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global and Sony, according to its latest 13F filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

After over 100 days of the WGA strike, the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have returned to the negotiating table, though its unclear when a deal may be reached.

Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA has been on strike for over a month, with no return to the negotiating table in sight.

An AMPTP spokesperson previously told TheWrap that the studios “remain committed to finding a path to mutually beneficial deals for both unions.”

For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.