A completely different perspective on the crisis surrounding Wounded Warrior Project.

September 26, 2016, 9:53 am
Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here are a few articles which will give you a different way of looking at the recent publicity surrounding Wounded Warrior Project. I’ve been swamped by several major projects so haven’t had much time to write recently. Those projects are still not done so I won’t be able to spend as much time on this post as I would like, yet I want to get some comments online for those who have been following the story.

The biggest article is The First Casualty: A report addressing the allegations made against the Wounded Warrior Project in January 2016 by Doug White, published September 6, 2016.

There is a lot of information about the entire story which has received minuscule coverage. Here is my quick recap of his major points:

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Three areas where accountants could help with analyzing charities

February 16, 2016, 7:34 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Professor Brian Mittendorf has outlined his ideas on how the accounting community could pitch in on industry-wide efforts to assess the effectiveness of charities.

1/25 – Counting on Charity – Three Pressing Issues in the Nonprofit Sector that Need Accounting Input – He  introduced three areas of nonprofit accounting where accountants could help:

  • Accounting for impact investments
  • Follow the money trail through multiple organizations
  • The development of alternative metrics of performance

Expanded discussions:

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CNN reports two charities accused by FTC agree to close their doors.

February 15, 2016, 3:43 pm
Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, DC. - Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, DC. – Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

CNN investigators David Fitzpatrick and Drew Griffin report: Cancer charity targeted by feds agrees to put itself out of business. Article says preliminary documents filed in Federal District Court in Phoenix indicate Cancer Fund of America and the related fundraising arm, Cancer Support Services, agreed to turn control over to receivers for liquidation.

In May 2015, the FTC and 50 state attorneys general sued these two charities and two others run by relatives of the president of CFA, alleging fundraising fraud. Two immediately agreed to liquidate. The two discussed in the CNN report initially fought allegations but have now agreed to close their doors.

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California Attorney General sues charity and their auditor over RRF-1 filing and 990

December 8, 2015, 9:13 am

909 page 1

Sometimes there is a perception in the charity community that those pesky filings with the charity regulators are no big deal. Sometimes board members don’t pay much attention to the 990.

Well, last week the California AG sued one charity in the state for allegedly misleading information in the RRF-1. That is a simple one-page form that has only two numbers: total revenue and total assets. The AG claims the 990s have misleading information in them.

How can the AG of a state sue over a tax return filed with the federal government? Here is the path they take. They allege the one page RFF-1 was misleading because attached to the RRF-1 is the federal 990, which is where they find the information that they consider to be misleading. That gives the state grounds to sue.

The sobering lesson for CPAs who serve the charity community is the AG also sued the CPA firm. In addition, they sued the audit partner personally.

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Details on FTC enforcement action against four cancer charities – 2

June 17, 2015, 8:39 am

This is the second in a series of posts diving deep into the detail mentioned in the complaint by the Federal Trade Commission and all Attorneys General against four named cancer charities.

My goal is to highlight some of the information that I think is of particular interest to the wider nonprofit community.

I perceive the attention paid to the complaint is drying up. Before discussing the FTC complaint, want to mention one interesting article of late:

6/1 – Suzanne Perry at Chronicle of Philanthropy – $187-Million Fraud Case Puts Charities on the Defensive – Article has reactions to the FTC and 50+ AGs going after the cancer charities that were so far over the line.

My description of the comments are they range from wondering what took the regulators so long to whether this is just a start.  Article points out there has been regulatory action against some members of this group for a long time (over 20 years with CFOA) but that doesn’t seem to have deterred additional problematic efforts.

One focus on the article is the limited staffing at the AG offices which limits how much they can focus on the charity sector. Various industry sources comment on the limits of self-regulation.

Back to the FTC complaint, which can be found here.  It is a public document. I assert journalist status, so will quote the document at length.

Here is the summary of the organizations’ activities, as interpreted by the FTC: Read the rest of this entry »


More followup on FTC action against 4 cancer charities

May 26, 2015, 9:02 am

There is a lot more to say on the FTC and all AGs going after four charities that were way out of line.

5/19 – William P. Barrett at Forbes – Cancer Charities Agree to Dissolve Amid Fraud Claims – Article summarizes the case by the FTC. Two of the four charities have agreed to close their doors. Three of the named individuals have agreed they will not have future involvement with charity management or even fundraising.

We did nothing wrong and we agree not to break the law again

Article points out the irony we seen these kinds of settlements. Even though the three individuals agreed to not be involved in the charity sector again during their lifetime and two of the charities agreed to be taken over by receivers and then liquidated, the charities and individuals involved denied doing anything wrong.

It is as if it’s a normal and everyday thing that individuals agree to be legally barred from involvement in their economic sector and charities agree to corporate suicide when they have done nothing wrong.

But that’s the legal dance that is necessary. Denying wrongdoing is necessary to prevent the consent degree from becoming proof to anyone who later tried to sue the charities or individuals.  Even though I understand the reason, it seems silly to those looking in from the outside.

Contested claims

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Survey of first day reporting on major FTC enforcement action

May 19, 2015, 11:42 pm

Here is a collection of the articles I found the day the FTC and all state Attorneys General took enforcement action against a group of four charities:

Update: A quote in the Chronicle of Philanthropy article provides a massive warning to the nonprofit community:

Hugh Jones, a charity regulator in Hawaii, said to his knowledge “this is the first time state charity regulators have aggressively pursued the deceptive use of gifts in kind.”

While this case looks to be extraordinarily extreme, there are a variety of issues that the FTC and every AG has now declared to be the fraud category. Anyone who has been paying attention knows the issues under discussion are not limited to these four charities. 

It isn’t too late to clean up policies, valuations, and modify some past filings.

Let those with ears to hear, hear.

FTC litigation

FTC press release which lists the names of the charities and key executives: Read the rest of this entry »