Clinton Foundation May Have an Enron Problem

by David A. Ridenour

The Clinton Foundation just announced that it will revise its tax returns for 2010, 2011, and 2012 after revelations by the Reuters news organization that it neglected to report foreign government grants on its tax returns as required by law.

Charities are required to provide a breakout of their government grants, including from domestic and foreign sources, in Part VII, line 1e of IRS form 990.

In a statement on its website, the Clinton Foundation explained that it had apparently “mistakenly combined” its foreign government funding with other funding.

This isn’t just highly questionable… it’s downright improbable.

Having served in senior management of a non-profit with the same tax status as the Clinton Foundation for nearly 30 years, I can testify that it’s very hard to mess this up year after year.

Not only would the Clinton Foundation’s management need to get it wrong repeatedly, but its CPA would as well.

And even if the CPA messed up, the errors most certainly would have been caught during an annual audit.

Auditors don’t just take a charity’s word for the sources and amounts of grants, but contact the sources to verify the information supplied is correct.

So, I wondered which firms could have served the Clinton Foundation so poorly from 2010-2012.

It turns out that it wasn’t two firms, but a single firm: the Little Rock, Arkansas branch of BKD, LLP.

That the Clinton Foundation chose to use a single firm for both CPA services and its independent audit for multiple years is significant as it violates charitable best practices.

Ever since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (formally, the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act) was adopted in 2002, the splitting of general accounting and auditing services has become standard practice, not just for publicly-held corporations but charities, too.

The splitting of accounting and auditing services was a direct result of the Enron scandal.

And now, it appears that the Clinton Foundation may be the charitable equivalent of Enron.

The accounting firm Arthur Andersen helped Enron cook its books because by doing so it could also keep much more lucrative contracts with the company.

During the early 1990s, Arthur Andersen learned that it could considerably boost its profits if its auditors approved what the Wall Street Journal called, in a 2002 article, “aggressive accounting tactics” by some of its clients.

One of its first big financial successes from using these tactics was when it helped Boston Chicken hide franchise losses in advance of an IPO.

In the auditor’s performance review, he was praised for turning “a $50,000 audit fee into a $3 million full-service engagement.”

BKD could have been the Clinton Foundation’s Arthur Andersen, approving “aggressive accounting tactics” to hide millions of dollars in controversial government grants in the one document that the public has an absolute right to see – the Clinton Foundation’s federal tax return.

It is troubling, too, that like Arthur Andersen, BKD’s professional conduct has been questioned by government regulators.

The Little Rock Arkansas branch of BKD, the very branch the Clinton Foundation used for its audit and other accounting services, is currently being sued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for $17.5 million in connection with the failure of the First Southern Bank of Batesville.

Between December 2008 and September 2010, First Southern Bank purchased $23 million in fraudulent district improvement bonds from Little Rock attorney Kevin Lewis. BKD was the bank’s accounting firm at the time and the FDIC says the firm failed to do its job.

Lewis was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 and BKD’s association with the case certainly became widely known at that time.

Yet, the Clinton Foundation did not make its curiously-timed switch to the firm Price Waterhouse Coopers until 2013.

If the IRS can free itself for a moment from its witch hunt of conservative non-profits, it might want to examine the books of the Clinton Foundation.

With so much smoke, there’s likely to be one heck of a fire.

General Electric’s Jeff Immelt Says GE Will Not Make Public Written Communications with State Department During Period When It Made a Major Donation to the Clinton Foundation and then-Secretary of State Clinton Secured a $1.9 Billion Contract with the Algerian Government

For Release: April 22, 2015
Contact:
Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or jkent@nationalcenter.org or David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or (703) 568-4727 (text enabled) or dalmasi@nationalcenter.org

General Electric’s Jeff Immelt Says GE Will Not Make Public Written Communications with State Department During Period When It Made a Major Donation to the Clinton Foundation and then-Secretary of State Clinton Secured a $1.9 Billion Contract with the Algerian Government

Donation to Clinton Foundation Raises Potential Honest Services Fraud Questions

Oklahoma City, OK / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual meeting of General Electric shareholders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the National Center for Public Policy Research asked the industrial giant about the apparent conflict of interest between its philanthropy and the actions of top government officials, and raised the question of whether GE needlessly exposed itself to potential prosecution for honest services fraud.

The National Center’s Justin Danhof asked GE CEO Jeff Immelt to make public emails and other written communications between the State Department and GE during the period when it made a generous contribution to the Clinton Foundation and the State Department arranged a major contract for GE.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt replied: “That’s not something we would do.”

“There is no evidence that GE did anything wrong – but that’s the point – there is no evidence period,” said Danhof. “When one of the world’s most powerful companies teams with the Secretary of State and the end result is a massive donation going one way and a multi-billion-dollar foreign contract coming back the other way, the company’s investors are right to ask questions. Now it is up to the media and Congress to do their part and investigate and use subpoenas if necessary to find the truth.”

“It is disappointing to see Immelt put GE in the same boat as Mrs. Clinton in hiding the company’s communications from public view,” added Danhof. “We even broke from tradition and provided Immelt with our question in advance, which means that Immelt’s choice to keep these communications hidden was a calculated one. That raises the specter of suspicion on GE’s dealings with the Clinton Foundation even more. Presumably if the company has nothing to hide, it wouldn’t hide anything.”

Danhof asked GE CEO Jeff Immelt, in part:

…while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton lobbied foreign governments on behalf of companies including General Electric at a time when those companies were making donations to the Clinton Foundation. In late 2012, for example, Clinton urged the Algerian government to award a power plant contract to GE. GE contributed to the Clinton Foundation. Then in 2013, Algeria awarded the power plant contract to GE.

By donating to the Clinton Foundation while receiving a huge favor from the Secretary of State, did we not expose our company to the risk of being charged with honest services fraud?

Danhof further asked:

Since Mrs. Clinton had control of her business emails during this time and has said she deleted many of them, GE presumably is the only entity with evidence that everything was above board. To prevent the company from being the focus of any media or public investigation, would you consider making public all the Company’s written communications with the State Department during the relevant period?

An audio recording of the entire exchange is available on YouTube here.

To read Danhof’s full question, as prepared for delivery, click here.

“The company’s actions are really the focus here, not Mrs. Clinton’s,” said Danhof. “Lobbyists have been imprisoned under honest services fraud for far less than the sum that changed hands between GE and the Clinton Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reported that GE donated between $500,000 and $1 million to a health partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Clinton’s subsequent actions helped GE obtain a contract with the Algerian government to supply turbines for six power plants to the tune of $1.9 billion.”

“As I am sure GE’s lawyers are well aware, interpretations and enforcement of honest services fraud are murky at best,” added Danhof. “GE should be able to provide documentation that would prove to even the most skeptical judge or jury that all of its actions with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department do not meet even the most limited definition of honest services fraud.”

“Ideally,” added Danhof, “GE should eliminate the likelihood that it is involved in any embarrassing federal or media investigation, and the damage that would do to investors, by being completely transparent and making all relevant written communications public.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on corporations. In 2014, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 52 shareholder meetings, and today’s General Electric meeting marks the eighth shareholder meeting for the National Center in 2015.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here.

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