According to the Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) Photolibrary has begun moving to contact, and pay contributors the outstanding debts the company assumed when it purchased Index Stock in October 2006. Contributors tell the SAA the amounts being paid match those itemized on statements they received in November from Photolibrary's former controller, Carlos Santos.
Previously, Photolibrary's Chairman, Tim Moore had told Stock Asylum that the documents Santos relied on in making the claims were "stolen and manipulated." He also told the SAA that the Santos letter was "an unauthorized correspondence from a "disgruntled employee, making inaccurate and false statements." Santos was fired for these actions. Now, Photolibrary seems to be validating Santos by paying contributors the exact amounts detailed by him.
It is still not clear whether these are all the monies owed. KPMG was hired to do an audit, but never completed it, given the state of the books. It appears the information Santos provided to photographers was available to Photolibrary at the moment they took over Index Stock and is not the result of an exhaustive audit. It is not clear why Photolibrary did not being making payments to photographers earlier as promised.
Shortly after Santos sent emails to approximately 1,500 Index photographers on Nov. 11, photographers and industry trade associations began contacting Photolibrary and filing grievances with the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) Ethics and Grievance Committee. In such cases, the committee's role is to act as an intermediary between the member agency and the complaining parties, but the committee has no rights to audit or review any agency's books. Normally, the committee does not make its findings public or submit any type of report. The committee does have power to recommend expulsion of an agency from PACA if it finds the agency was not acting in accordance with PACA ethics and rules.
In December, Moore told Selling Stock, "The PACA Ethic's and Grievance Committee has not as yet completed their appraisal of the facts. We feel that any comment or announcement from us prior to them completing their due process would not be helpful." No official announcement from Photolibrary has been forthcoming.
It is not clear whether PACA or the SAA influenced Moore's decision to begin paying contributors, but SAA has been persistent in urging Photolibrary to provide every Index Stock contributor with a full and accurate accounting of all outstanding debt and to promptly pay all outstanding commissions in full.
Explains SAA President Zave Smith, problems began when SAA learned of the allegations by the company'' controller. "We immediately contacted Photolibrary and sought to help, working discreetly in our ombudsman role. Our Board and ombudsman urged the company to conduct a limited accounting review with a group of contributors willing to share records."
At first Photolibrary responded by "dismissing both Santos's allegations and SAA's suggestions," added Smith. "It became clear the company had repeatedly misinformed SAA about the status of their KPMG audit and their pledges that all past Index debts to contributors had been paid many months ago. Other troubling questions about Photolibrary's accounting procedures and policies were also raised and deserve explanation."
In a December press release, Photolibrary said that it lacked current email addresses or contact information for about 40% (approximately 700) of the artists who were sent statements by Santos. Anyone who has ever submitted images to Index Stock or one of the companies it acquired should immediately send current address information to Photolibrary, 23 West 18th St., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10011. Phone: 212-929-4644 and ask for an accounting and payment of any monies owed.