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Tipping Billionaire Philanthropists: Carnegie Hall and Robert Smith’s Tax Evasion – Non Profit News


Tdorante10, CC BY-SA 4.0, through Wikimedia Commons

December 9, 2020; New York Times

The all the time insightful and in-the-know Robin Pogrebin, writing for the New York Occasions, particulars the newest imbroglio with a significant donor to an enormous cultural establishment. This time, it’s Carnegie Corridor, whose board chair, Robert F. Smith, is maybe greatest identified for paying off the coed debt of a complete graduating class of Morehouse School. The issue is that on the similar time, he additionally evaded paying his taxes on an unreported $200 million in revenue, which he secreted away in Bermuda, Nevis, and Switzerland.

Though federal prosecutors referred to as it the largest tax evasion case in US history, Smith finally signed an settlement that completely shielded him from prosecution if he paid some $139 million in fines and cooperated with the investigation. He has additionally agreed to relinquish his declare on a refund of $182 million. (Satirically, among the deductions that led to that refund associated to charitable contributions.)

The Justice Division mentioned in an announcement, “Through the years, Smith used thousands and thousands of this unreported revenue to amass and make enhancements to actual property used for his private profit.”

So it goes for yet one more cultural establishment with ethically challenged however properly monied board members. We want not surprise why they replicate such a colonialist viewpoint.

Pogrebin writes that these organizations have reacted in another way to the authorized and public challenges lodges in opposition to their varied trustee robber barons relying on the circumstances:

Amid mounting public stress, the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork just lately felt compelled to swear off money from members of the Sackler family due to their hyperlinks to OxyContin. And final yr Warren B. Kanders was forced to step down as a vice chairman of the Whitney after protests over his firm’s sale of tear gasoline. (He later got out of the tear gas business.)

However many establishments stand by their supporters, even when they create a path of dangerous headlines.

The hedge fund titan Steven A. Cohen, whose SAC Capital Advisors agreed in 2013 to plead responsible to insider buying and selling violations and paid a record $1.8 billion penalty, is on the board of the Museum of Modern Art.

The examples may take up quite a lot of area, however, taken collectively, they reveal the problematic dynamic of patron-driven museums when mentioned patrons have acted in methods which can be exploitive and even violent in direction of the general public, as was clearly the case with Kanders and the Sacklers. However, in Smith’s case, the temptation to let bygones be bygones is moreover intense; as Pogrebin writes, “The reluctance of Carnegie Corridor’s board to dethrone Mr. Smith is comprehensible; he’s financially beneficiant, will get excessive marks as a collegial steward, and—named the richest Black man in America by Forbes in 2015—is the primary African American to carry the Carnegie Corridor put up at a time when the dearth of variety at many cultural organizations has grow to be a urgent problem.”

In different phrase, he’s the residing embodiment of an acceptable board chair for Carnegie—apart from that pesky tax avoidance problem. And he has given the establishment round $40 million over the past six years, donating additionally to the Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition and the Louis Armstrong Home Museum in New York. One would possibly say he’s been very beneficiant certainly with our lacking tax {dollars}.—Ruth McCambridge



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