Picard/Wilpons: Is the Inclusion of the Private Foundations in the Global Settlement Problematic for Court Approval? – Part 2 – Installment 76

April 24, 2012Articles White Collar Defense & Compliance Blog

This Installment raises some questions relating to the inclusion of the Defendant Foundations, which the Trustee had sued for recovery of “fictitious profits” and principal, as parties to the global Settlement Agreement between Picard and the Wilpons. Installment 75 (Part 1) of this blog series, which should be read together with this Installment, discussed the “Schedule 1 Foundations” and concerns about their inclusion in the Settlement Agreement. (Capitalized terms not otherwise defined herein shall have the meanings assigned to them in Installment 75.)

Unlike the Schedule 1 Foundations, the Defendant Foundations are defendants in the Litigation, and each of them is a signatory to the Settlement Agreement, with Fred Wilpon having signed as Director for the Wilpon Family Foundation and Saul B. Katz having signed as Director for the Katz Family Foundation. Moreover, the Defendant Foundations are listed on Schedule 2 of the Settlement Agreement as recipients of transfers from Madoff in excess of principal, as are the other defendants in the Litigation.

However, the fact that the Defendant Foundations are literally “on the same page” as the other defendants in the Litigation, including Fred Wilpon and Saul B. Katz as individuals defendants, should not finish the analysis as to whether the Defendant Foundations are properly parties to the Settlement Agreement. The analysis utilized in Installment 75 for the Schedule 1 Foundations should be considered for the Defendant Foundations as well.

Simply stated, there is a possible dichotomy between the interests of the Defendant Foundations and the individuals who occupy the same status with respect to the Defendant Foundations as the “Fiduciary Defendants” of the Schedule 1 Foundations. (Such individuals will be defined as Fiduciary Defendants with respect to the Defendant Foundations.) While more subtle in the case of the Defendant Foundations, there is a potential divergence of interests that calls for analysis of (i) the duty of loyalty of fiduciaries and (iii) the avoidance of conflicts of interest and prohibited “private benefit and inurement” that was discussed respecting the Schedule 1 Foundations. To reiterate, as indicated in the IRS Compliance Guide,

A private foundation is prohibited from allowing more than an insubstantial accrual of benefits, including non-monetary benefits, to individuals or organizations. The intent is to ensure that a tax-exempt organization serves a public interest, not a private one. If a private benefit is substantial, it could jeopardize the organization’s tax-exempt status.

Excise taxes for such violations can also be imposed by the IRS on both the non-complying private foundation and its fiduciaries. Basically, the allegation could be made that the inclusion of the Defendant Foundations in the Settlement Agreement benefited on a monetary and/or a non-monetary basis their respective Fiduciary Defendants in settling the Litigation on the most favorable terms on a global basis.

Query, did the Trustee and the Fiduciary Defendants explore reasonably the question as to whether the Defendant Foundations could have and should have made a better deal by themselves outside of the framework of the global Settlement Agreement? Installment 60 of this blog series (and prior Installments linked therein) give examples of the flexibility and financial accommodations that the Trustee has provided in other cases of charities that realized fictitious profits in the Madoff scheme and would have suffered serious or even irreparable adversity if they were to be fully clawed back.

In conclusion, in the cases of both the Schedule 1 Foundations and the Defendant Foundations, greater scrutiny of their participation in the Settlement Agreement may be called for in order to promote an appearance of propriety for the Settlement Agreement and the Fiduciary Defendants. In addition to the questions at the end of Installment 75, query whether the Trustee, as the party moving for approval of the Settlement Agreement, has a responsibility to be pro-actively bringing the matters of the Involved Foundations to the attention of Judge Rakoff for inclusion in the court’s full and fair review and approval of the Settlement Agreement in this widely-followed Litigation.

(To be continued in Installment 77)