Thursday, July 28, 2016

501(c)(3) Organizations & the Ban on "Intervening" with Political Campaigns

A recent post by Benjamin Leff on The Surly Subgroup highlights the 50+ year ban on 501(c)(3) organizations (here, specifically churches) “intervening” in a campaign for public office. Arguments for and against the ban range from an infringement of free speech, to churches using their power to distort the electoral process. However, the main issue discussed is that although churches want to get in to court to challenge the ban, they believe the IRS won’t let them. For a compelling read on how these organizations may be granted their “day in court” and some possible reform suggestions, read the above linked post.

David Brennen

July 28, 2016 in Current Affairs, Federal – Legislative, In the News, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Non-Profit Hospitals and the False Claims Act

Brian Mahany (Mahany Law) posted Non-Profit Hospitals and the False Claims Act to his firm's Due Diligence (Blog):

 
Expect to See More False Claims Act Whistleblower Cases Against "Non Profit" Hospitals
 
It shouldn't shock anyone that the highest settlements under the False Claims Act have been for profit entities. Specifically, big pharmaceutical companies, defense contractors and banks. Our record $16.65 billion case against Bank of America last year still reigns over the top spot but it wouldn't surprise us to see unrestrained corporate greed propel some other business into the top spot. What does surprise us is the number of non-profits that are racking up huge settlements.
 
Traditionally, non-profits are motivated by the public good. Their mission isn't to turn a profit. Theoretically, any excess income a non-profit makes ought to be plowed back into its primary mission. For example, a nonprofit hospital that has excessive cash should strive to provide more charity care or do more disease prevention work.
 
Although I have never worked in a hospital, I served on the board of the Family Violence Project, an organization of dedicated volunteers and salaried employees. No one took a job there hoping to get rich. Our employees were every bit as motivated as our volunteers. We tried to pay staff livable wages while at the same time serving all the needs in the community.
 
Most employees at nonprofits choose to work there because they believe in the organization's mission. For example, the curator of an art museum, although paid, probably is very passionate about art. I don't think the average executive at an insurance company is at passionate about insurance.
When it comes to healthcare, the line between for-profit and not-for-profit has become quite blurry. We don't often see False Claims Act cases involving nonprofits, even though many receive government funds and grants. The big exceptions, of course, are in the healthcare sector – non-profit clinics and hospitals.
 
Earlier today I read an article in the New York Post that claims the CEO of the non-profit North Shore LIJ Health System earned $10 million last year in total compensation. North Shore operates Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and other facilities too. Their revenues are $9.5 billion.
 
Huge salaries aren't reserved for big New York City hospitals. Even the heads of smaller hospitals are making big bucks. I know that when I left Maine in 2006 one non-profit hospital CEO was making just shy of $1 million. (The salaries of the for- profit hospital CEO's is even more ridiculous including the $26.4 million reportedly paid to Community Health Systems' Wayne Smith last year.)
 
Some hospitals try to operate both as a for-profit and a non-profit entity. How is that possible? It probably takes an army of good accountants and tax lawyers! Basically, where it is advantageous to be a for profit, those functions of the hospital will operate that way while other affiliates operate as not-for-profit.
 
When that happens, it is usually nothing more than a charade deigned to maximize government funds and donations while minimizing any taxes on the for-profit side.
 
The proliferation of these hybrid arrangements and the huge C- suite compensation packages has resulted in these organizations often running as corruptly as their for-profit counterparts.
 
Traditionally the Justice Department was reluctant to pursue False Claims Act cases against non-profits. The False Claims Act is a 19thcentury fraud statute that punishes companies that misuse public funds. Under the Act, wrongdoers are subject to triple damages and penalties of up to $11,000 for each false claim (invoice) submitted to the government. Whistleblowers who file their claims in federal court can collect up to 30% of whatever the government collects.
 
Prosecutors didn't want to pursue a False Claims Act charge because of the belief that any fine money would come from donors or would reduce the ability of the hospital to perform charity work. Today, that is but a myth.
 
In recent years it isn't unusual to see multimillion dollar settlements against non-profit hospitals and even state and local government operated facilities.
 
Fraud is fraud and taxpayers have the right to expect that their hard earned tax dollars be spent properly. Hopefully more whistleblowers will step forward and join last year's record number of folks who filed False Claims Act cases. (Last year was also a record for payments to whistleblowers, over $435 million!)

 

Nicholas Mirkay

December 2, 2015 in In the News, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!

Steve Martin
One of the best resources out there for keeping track of state adoption of hybrid entities is socentlaw.com and specifically, the fantastic multi-colored map that keeps track of who has what where.   

So it is with a great excitement that would do Navin Johnson proud that we can share that Cass Brewer has updated his map.   Check it out!

EWW (dating herself....)

February 18, 2015 in Other, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 22, 2014

For Profit Law Schools: Campos on Florida Coastal School of Law and what it says about high cost nonprofit law schools

If you have not already heard about the huge ongoing gnashing of teeth regarding the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of for-profit law schools (nevermind the questioning of law schools themselves), you should take a look at Paul Campos' August 13th article in The Atlantic entitled "The Law School Scam".    Campos has a follow-up post to the article -- commenting on Florida Coastal School of Law's rather transparent PR counter-offensive lead by a person named "Mia" -- on his own blog.  The point relevant to this blog though regards the extent to which the profit motive necessarily, invariably or inevitably corrupts altruism in the managment of nominally nonprofit endeavors.  One might surmise that in the absence of so much government subsidized profit -- even still today -- gushing from law schools, we might have far fewer law schools perpetuating the ever increasing bubble.   I almost feel as though I am passing along some really juicy explosive gossip, except that the facts are verifiable even if his conclusions are arguable.    

The Atlantic article begins with a discussion of an infamous incident in which a Dean candidate was asked to get the hell off campus right in the middle of his vision talk for too insightfully addressing the conflict between profit making and charity as it relates to the impact on law school admissions:

Florida Coastal is a for-profit law school, and in his presentation to its faculty, Frakt [the Dean candidate] had catalogued disturbing trends in the world of for-profit legal education. This world is one in which schools accredited by the American Bar Association admit large numbers of severely underqualified students; these students in turn take out hundreds of millions of dollars in loans annually, much of which they will never be able to repay. Eventually, federal taxpayers will be stuck with the tab, even as the schools themselves continue to reap enormous profits.  There are only a small number of for-profit law schools nationwide. But a close look at them reveals that the perverse financial incentives under which they operate are merely extreme versions of those that afflict contemporary American higher education in general. And these broader systemic dysfunctions have potentially devastating consequences for a vast number of young people—and for higher education as a whole.  Florida Coastal is one of three law schools owned by the InfiLaw System, a corporate entity created in 2004 by Sterling Partners, a Chicago-based private-equity firm. InfiLaw purchased Florida Coastal in 2004, and then established Arizona Summit Law School (originally known as Phoenix School of Law) in 2005 and Charlotte School of Law in 2006. 

For the deeper questions provoked by the article, you just need to read the article.  I'm probably way too biased to even present the highlights. But here is one salient point regarding mainstream [i.e., nonprofit] law schools that cannot be ignored:

What, after all, is the difference between the InfiLaw schools and Michigan’s Thomas M. Cooley, or Boston’s New England Law, or Chicago’s John Marshall, or San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson? All of these law schools feature student bodies with poor academic qualifications and terrible job prospects relative to their average debt. In recent years, as law-school applications have collapsed, all of these schools have, just like the InfiLaw schools, cut their already low admissions standards. And, like Florida Coastal, Arizona Summit, and Charlotte, all of these schools now have a very high percentage of students who, given their LSAT scores, are unlikely to ever pass the bar. Ultimately, what difference does it make that none of these schools produce profit in the technical (and taxable) sense, because they are organized as nonprofits?  The only real difference between for-profit and nonprofit schools is that while for-profits are run for the benefit of their owners, nonprofits are run for the benefit of the most-powerful stakeholders within those institutions.

After describing the almost religious cult-like assumptions underlying American's blind subsidization of anything labled "higher education," including law school, Campos concludes, "these assumptions enabled InfiLaw’s lucrative foray into the world of for-profit education. But they have just as surely shaped the behavior of nonprofit colleges and universities."  he might have added, "all at the expense of most students whose promissory notes finance colleges and universities." 

dkj

August 22, 2014 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kristof on Charitable Giving: Where is the Love?

I was perusing the International New York Times when I came across this op-ed by Nicholas D. Kristof.  He asks a simple question at Thanksgiving time: Where is the Love?  I recommend it to you.

VEJ 

November 28, 2013 in Current Affairs, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

And We Thought It Was For The Tax Deduction....

With a hat tip to the TaxProf Blog, I simply must post regarding the most recent compelling and ground-breaking work done by the readers of Freakonomics.  (Should H&R Block Hire Models to Increase Charitable Giving?)  Freakonomics updated its readers on its fundraising campaign for Freakonomics Radio, as follows. 

Your comments and e-mails were also a great window into a better understanding of what makes someone want to donate to a given cause or not. You pointed out incentives we overlooked, or overvalued, or undervalued. ... Here, for instance, is one my favorite comments, from a reader named Eric Kennedy:

[Y]ou forgot a primary reason why people donate to charity: to impress their attractive tax preparers. I’m not kidding. I’m very attractive and worked as a tax preparer for two years. I’ve seen this first-hand. I now find myself considering the impression I will make on my attractive tax preparer. The most effective way to boost nation-wide charitable giving, would be to staff H&R Block with models and encourage them to make comments about the size of people’s annual donation amounts.

I must agree with Mr. Kennedy's assessment, although I will neither confirm nor deny whether I have participated in the preparation of tax returns that contain significant charitable deductions...and that fact would, of course, have no bearing on my scholarly assessment of Mr. Kennedy’s observations in this regard.

EWW

October 22, 2013 in Other, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)