Food for the Poor’s response to news articles

Clean water from a well – There are places in the world where that is a big deal; I’ve visited a few. Many charities, including those whose accounting is being criticized by the CA AG, are working to improve the lives of the least among us. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma provided the following response to the post earlier today discussing several news articles. I am pleased to print the comments, with permission of FFP. For ease of reading, the comments will not be put in quotations. 

FFP has another statement at their website which you can read here.

The FFP statement, which is in response to comments in the Boston Globe article:


Food For The Poor is troubled by recent news coverage suggesting that our non-profit organization is not transparent about how we operate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The claim that we deliberately mislead donors is contradicted by the facts. The regulatory action brought by the California Attorney General does not suggest any wrongdoing on our part in the handling of donations or our daily operations. It is an accounting issue about how we value donated goods and we are challenging it.

The Attorney General’s office claims that we have over-valued our pharmaceuticals because we have used the United States as our principal market and have valued our pharmaceuticals at U.S. wholesale prices, rather than international prices related to the 17 countries we serve. However, almost all international nonprofit organizations that receive significant donated goods use the same industry-specific methodologies to value their donated pharmaceuticals in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).  In following those standards, we are required to value all of our donated goods in a fair and consistent manner and to declare that value as revenue in our financial statements.


More articles discussing the California AG’s enforcement actions over medical GIK

…What accounting rules sometime feel like.  Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are three more articles discussing the cease-and-desist orders issued by the California Attorney General against three large charities who have large amounts of donated medicine. Previous post discusses a few earlier articles.

Update:  Food for the Poor has provided a response to the Boston Globe article, which you may read here.

5/30/18 – editorial in Sun Sentinel – Food for the Poor controversy reveals need for nonprofit transparency – Editorial highlights that using US pricing compared to international pricing increases apparent efficiency.  The challenge, visible in the article, is that the charity claims 95% of all expenses are for program and the article says the California AG claims 66.7% of cash donations are used for program.

In a statement which should sober every accountant, CPA, auditor of NPOs, and staff of R&D charities, the editorial asks:

(S)uch accounting practices may be legal, and they may be the industry standard, but are they honest?

Let me paraphrase two questions embedded in that comment (yeah, CPAs actually talk that way – we look for embedded derivatives and embedded leases). The editorial is asking:

  • Is the industry standard consistent with GAAP?
  • Is either GAAP or the industry standard honest?


2018 nonprofit risk alert is available. New edition adds discussion on valuation of GIK as rebuttal to California AG.

Cover of 2018 NFP risk alert, used under fair use since I’m recommending you buy the document.

The AICPA has released the 2018 edition of Not-for-Profit Entities Industry Developments.

If you are a CPA serving the not-for-profit community, you need to read this document each year. It provides a survey of the accounting and auditing issues affecting the nonprofit world.

If you are an auditor, there are several other risk alerts you ought to be reading every year.

If you are working for a nonprofit, these alerts would give you a good survey of accounting issues in general and the audit issues your CPA will be dealing with this year.

Valuation of Gifts in Kind

Of particular interest are new comments responsive to the challenge from the California AG over valuation of GIK. The 2017 and 2016 editions had minimal comments on GIK.

The 2018 edition has a new section, Gifts-in-Kind: Reporting Contributions of Nonfinancial Assets, in paragraphs .53 through .57, which describes the AICPA’s interpretation of GAAP.

Years after the mebendazole issue has faded away, the second bullet point of paragraph .56 says that when GIK is sourced outside the U.S. and is not approved for distribution in the U.S., the meds should be valued at international prices. (If you have been following this issue for years, you realize the concession made by that comment.)


Some additional news reports on the California AG’s enforcement actions

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

There are a few recent articles discussing enforcement action by the California Attorney General regarding the accounting for donated medicine used by three national charities. Looks like the issue is beginning to get a bit wider attention than this teeny tiny little ol’ blog.

Inflated Expectations / What’s going on with foreign affairs nonprofit Food for the Poor? from Slate on May 10, 2018, provides a non-technical description of the issues raised by the California AG.

Good explanation of medicine valuation, near-term expiry, joint cost allocation, principal market, access, and materiality issues without ever using those words. Even hints at daisy chain and SFAS 136 agency transactions.

Let me suggest a couple of exercises for accountants in the audience.

First, read through the article another time identifying all the accounting issues touched upon. Think about that as an illustration of how to describe technical accounting issues without being technical. (Yeah, I know, what a crazy idea – explaining stuff so people will understand.)

Second exercise is to read through the article thinking about how non-accountants would respond to each of those ideas if it was the first time they had heard about it.

How many of those GAAP accounting treatments would actually make sense?

How many would seem flat-out silly to people who haven’t spent years working with accounting rules?

Description of one shipment


Once again: The time left to clean up the valuation of GIK meds is running out.

Volunteer Fire Department Station” by SliceofNYC is licensed under CC BY 2.0


See that fire siren at the top of the city’s fire hall?

The whistle is so loud my ears hurt.

The fire is valuation of donated medicine.

The town is the non-profit community.


It is time to rerun my fire alarm commentary.

My previous post provided a technical description of regulators’ concerns over accounting for donated medicine in the not-for-profit world. This post provides a word picture of the current situation.

Originally posted way back on November 9, 2012, here is my six-year-old discussion with some minor changes:



There is a fire burning in the nonprofit community. The fire is the issue of valuing donated pharmaceuticals. Primarily issue is about mebendazole.  Albendazole and antibiotics are involved, but to a lesser degree. There are many alarm bells ringing. 

The loudest fire alarm went off yesterday.


Regulators have serious problems with how the nonprofit community is accounting for donated medicine.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

There is a serious problem in the nonprofit community in terms of accounting for donated medicine. Three major enforcement actions by various regulators tell us that the regulators have serious reservations about how charities are dealing with gifts-in-kind.

Those of us working in the charity world need to ponder what could be making so many regulators so concerned.

50 Attorneys General

The rumors in the wind mentioned in my next post were discussed in 2012.  That turned into a major enforcement action by the Federal Trade Commission and all 50 state Attorneys General against 4 cancer charities. (See my posts under the tag FTC.) That was in 2015.

I’m not aware of any followup by that group and I’ll guess the reason is the complexity of coordinating a 50+ member committee.

For the FTC and all 50 Attorneys General to all be on the same page on an issue should serve as a warning they believe there is a serious problem.



Some details in the appeals filed by 3 charities

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

As mentioned previously, appeals have been filed by the three charities receiving cease & desist orders from the California A.G.

This discussion will highlight some comments in the appeals. Will have a few observation from an auditor perspective along the way. Might want to get a fresh cup of coffee before you dig in. This will be a long post.

Previous posts:


Catholic Medical Mission Board appeal

At seven pages, this appeal is a bit shorter than the others. The page count includes the proof of service and a cover sheet which is the page the AG provided to request an appeal.

In the appeal, CMMB denies all the factual allegations and conclusions of law (para 4). Specific assertions are listed for emphasis:

  • The AG is not properly interpreting GAAP.
  • Geographic restrictions on medicine do not make the US a prohibited market for valuation purposes.
  • Representations to California citizens are neither unfair nor deceptive.

In the appeal, CMMB requests:


Three charities file appeal of California AG Cease and Desist order

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

With a deadline of April 11 to appeal cease and desist orders from the California Attorney General, MAP International, Food for the Poor, and Catholic Medical Mission Board each filed their appeal on the 10th or 11th.

You may find a PDF copy of the appeals and cease and desist orders at the AG’s website.

The individual appeals may be found at:


California A.G. files cease & desist order against 3 large charities alleging donated medicine was overvalued

The Evolution of Law; Bas Relief, Los Angeles Superior Court” by JoeInSouthernCA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

As mentioned previously, the conflict over donated pharmaceuticals has heated up again. It seemed to have faded away over the last couple of years but has now gained renewed visibility.

The California Attorney General has filed cease and desist orders against three large, high-profile charities who received between 70% and 98% of their revenue from medical GIK.

A complaint was filed against another charity for overvaluation of GIK. That charity essentially conceded the accusations in a stipulated settlement, agreeing to terminate the charity’s existence. That action is discussed here.

The three large charities are Food for the Poor, Inc., MAP International, and Catholic Medical Mission Board, Inc.

The cease and desist orders can be found at the AG’s web site:

This is a long post, approaching 2,200 words. Might be worthwhile to get a fresh cup of coffee before diving in.



This post will walk through a number of key comments in the cease and desist orders, which I’ll referred to as C&DO. Because the C&DO are roughly parallel to each other, I’ll walk through the MAP order and add comments on the CMMB and FftP order where it is helpful. The CMMB C&DO does not have the comments regarding state charitable filing requirements.


Financial info for the 4 charities the California AG accuses of overvaluing donated medicine

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

For future reference, here is some select financial information on the charities that have been accused of overvaluing donated medicine.

In March 2018, the Attorney General of California filed cease and desist orders against three charities and a complaint against one.

The complaint was resolved with a stipulated judgment the same day the complaint was filed. Resolution? The National Cancer Coalition agreed to dissolve.

Listed in this post is some data from the most recent set of financial statements available at the charities’ web sites along with the 2015 info, which is the latest year cited in the cease-and-desist orders.

Since the cease-and-desist orders allege material misrepresentation in the audited financial statements, the auditor is also listed. Therefore this is an audit issue as well as an accounting issue.

I will make an educated guess that the 2017 financial statements for MAP and FffP will not be available until after the impact of the AG’s cease and desist action is assessed. Looking in from the outside, it seems to me like this issue would constitute a material subsequent event.


California A.G. files complaint against a charity for overvaluation of donated medicine. That charity agrees to dissolve itself. Three other charities issued cease-and-desist order.

The Evolution of Law; Bas Relief, Los Angeles Superior Court” by JoeInSouthernCA is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

(update: headline modified)

The conflict over donated pharmaceuticals has heated up again.

The California Attorney General has filed cease and desist orders against three large charities who received between 89% and 98% of their revenue from medical GIK.

Update:  Those percentages appear to include all GIK, not just medicines. For example, in 2015 Food for the Poor had $1,159M total income with $1,033M of donated goods, according to their audited financial statements. According to their 990 for 2015, of the total GIK $818.7M was drugs and medical supplies, $110.8M was clothing and household goods, with $103M of other GIK. For 2015 donated drugs and medical supplies are 70.6% of total support and revenue.

Update: For MAP in 2015, total drugs and medical supplies from Schedule M of the 990 ties to the donated inventory on the audited financial statements. The only other GIK listed on Schedule M are securities, which amount ties to the financial statements. For 2015, donated drugs and medical supplies are 97.8% of total revenue and support.  Likewise for CMMB, the drugs and medical supplies listed on Schedule M ties to the line donated pharmaceuticals, equipment and supplies on the audited financial statements. For 2015, donated drugs and medical supplies are 90% of total support and revenue.

A complaint was filed against another charity, National Cancer Coalition, for overvaluation of GIK. The charity conceded the state’s claims and agreed to terminate the charity’s existence.

The three large charities are Food for the Poor, MAP International, and Catholic Medical Mission Board.

The cease and desist orders can be found at the AG’s web site:

Actions regarding the charity closing its doors:

This post will describe the complaint against NCC and the stipulated judgment.