SPLC reported to have funneled millions of dollars to offshore accounts

This story, which I’ll excerpt from The Free Beacon, has so far been reported almost exclusively by the right-wing media, but independently by several such sites (for example, the Alabama Political Reporter). Take it with a grain of salt, though there are documents you can look at to check. If it’s true, it should certainly be reported by the press in general. And perhaps this is all normal because I don’t know from taxes.

We all know that the Southern Poverty Law center (SPLC), once a respectable organization, has come into some disrepute because it listed the Islam reformers Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz (who’s sued them) as “anti-Muslim extremists,” and, as I noted, they’ve also been faulted for amassing a huge endowment that isn’t much used, as well as paying exorbitant salaries (over $350,000) to its CEO and its Chief Counsel.

Now they may be in a lot more trouble. As the Beacon reports, the SPLC’s filed tax returns show that it appears to have transferred several million dollars to an offshore account in the Cayman Islands. Here is the report with links:

The SPLC has turned into a fundraising powerhouse, recording more than $50 million in contributions and $328 million in net assets on its 2015 Form 990, the most recently available tax form from the nonprofit. SPLC’s Form 990-T, its business income tax return, from the same year shows that they have “financial interests” in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, and Bermuda. No information is available beyond the acknowledgment of the interests at the bottom of the form.

Here’s that brief entry:

However, the Washington Free Beacon discovered forms from 2014 that shed light on some of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s transfers to foreign entities.

The SPLC’s Form 8865, a Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Partnerships, from 2014 shows that the nonprofit transferred hundreds of thousands to an account located in the Cayman Islands.

SPLC lists Tiger Global Management LLC, a New York-based private equity financial firm, as an agent on its form. The form shows a foreign partnership between the SPLC and Tiger Global Private Investment Partners IX, L.P., a pooled investment fund in the Cayman Islands. SPLC transferred $960,000 in cash on Nov. 24, 2014 to Tiger Global Private Investment Partners IX, L.P, its records show.

Here’s that bit:

The SPLC’s Form 926, a Return by a U.S. Transferor of Property to a Foreign Corporation, from 2014 shows additional cash transactions that the nonprofit had sent to offshore funds.

The SPLC reported a $102,007 cash transfer on Dec. 24, 2014 to BPV-III Cayman X Limited, a foreign entity located in the Cayman Islands. The group then sent $157,574 in cash to BPV-III Cayman XI Limited on Dec. 31, 2014, an entity that lists the same PO Box address in Grand Cayman as the previous transfer.

The nonprofit pushed millions more into offshore funds at the beginning of 2015.

On March 1, 2015, SPLC sent $2,200,000 to an entity incorporated in Canana Bay, Cayman Islands, according to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records and run by a firm firm based in Greenwich, Ct. Another $2,200,000 cash transfer was made on the same day to another fund whose business is located at the same address as the previous fund in the Cayman Islands, according to SEC records.

Here’s the reporting of the first $2.2 million transfer:

No information is contained on its interests in Bermuda on the 2014 forms. SPLC’s financial stakes in the British Virgin Islands were not acknowledged until its 2015 tax form.

You can look up the other information yourself through the links.

Now I’m not a tax person nor an accountant, but this sounds pretty weird to me. In fact, when the website contacted Jackson Thornton, the Montogomery, Alabama firm that does the SPLC’s taxes, they refused to comment and hung up. Well, maybe they don’t have to discuss this issue, but some experts have said such transfers are deeply weird:

“I’ve never known a US-based nonprofit dealing in human rights or social services to have any foreign bank accounts,” said Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of Pacific Human Capital, a California-based nonprofit consulting firm. “My impression based on prior interactions is that they have a small, modestly paid staff, and were regarded by most in the industry as frugal and reliable. I am stunned to learn of transfers of millions to offshore bank accounts. It is a huge red flag and would have been completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with.”

“It is unethical for any US-based charity to invest large sums of money overseas,” said Casil. “I know of no legitimate reason for any US-based nonprofit to put money in overseas, unregulated bank accounts.”

“It seems extremely unusual for a ‘501(c)(3)’ concentrating upon reducing poverty in the American South to have multiple bank accounts in tax haven nations,” Charles Ortel, a former Wall Street analyst and financial advisor who helped uncover a 2009 financial scandal at General Electric, told the Free Beacon.

Of course this website, and several others who reported these transfers, are opponents of the SPLC’s left-wing agenda, which is why we have to be cautious about these reports. Perhaps the SPLC’s behavior is kosher. Still, I’d like to know why they’reputting money into Cayman Island accounts.


  1. sensorrhea
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    SPLC: Southern Prosperous Lucre Collectors

    They at least need to get “poverty” out of the name or risk a dangerous irony leak.

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    If your organization is already exempt from taxes why would you be doing this? Only to hide something I would think. Maybe money laundering? Maybe some within the organization taking money out? It would certainly get the attention of the IRS.

    They expect that IRS investigations in to some of Trump’s campaign folks might be one of the areas that brings them down. Obstruction of Justice is already a given.

  3. Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    “why they’re putting money into Cayman Island accounts”

    Instead of helping the poor in the US South …

    • rickflick
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      They have already redefined “extremists”, they’ve now redefined “poverty” as $350,000 for a family of 4.

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        350k? Really? I googlated that and couldn’t find a reference to them redefining it that way. I kind of suck at the googles though. Got a link?

        • rickflick
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          The OP mentions S”Poverty”LC officer salaries at about $350K.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

            I assume you were just being rhetorical there, then.


  4. Historian
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    We should withhold judgment or condemnation of these actions (as the post does), pending an explanation of the SPLC. Since all this financial data was duly reported to the IRS, probably nothing illegal was done. The ethics or wisdom of the move is another story. But, for now let’s wait for an explanation. If it is not forthcoming or inadequate, then will be the time to skewer them.

    • Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Do you feel the same about Trump and his taxes?

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        Well, we can’t actually see his tax documents.

        I don’t trust der Drumpfenführer as far as I could throw him. We know he has had a life full of financial shenanigans.

      • Historian
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        I would if the situations were comparable, but they are not. Trump has refused to release his returns and will never voluntarily do so. We currently have no inkling what’s on them. But, Special Counsel Robert Mueller may get a hold of them and then we may know more. I believe all presidential candidates since 1976 have released their returns, except Trump.

        It is not unreasonable to suspect very questionable items on his returns, such as his dealings with Russia (which he continually denied that he had any). Of course, all such questions could be resolved if he would release them, but there is a greater chance of Ken Ham becoming an evolutionist than Trump voluntarily doing so.

        • Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          Correct: Every candidate in the general election (at least the Dems and Reps) since the 1976 Carter-Ford race has done so. Ford only released “summary data” on his taxes.

        • Bruce Gorton
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          You know I suspect the real reason Trump doesn’t want to release his tax returns isn’t so much shady dealings, as them revealing that he isn’t as rich as he claims.

          • Mark R.
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            It’s both.

      • Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        False equivalence. Apparently someone can get access to SPLC’s return. Nobody can get Trump’s so he forces speculation. Plus he has lied about his charitable giving repeatedly. I’m not buying his personal gift to Houston relief either until I see it.

        Really, both of them are reprehensible.

        • Historian
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          Most tax returns of exempt organizations are available for public inspection as I interpret the IRS regulations (I could be wrong. The privacy laws apparently do not apply here. That’s why the SPLC returns are available for viewing, but Trump’s returns (and those of every other individual taxpayer) are not.


          • Randy schenck
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            I think you can bet money that Mueller has Trumps and many others in the gang. There is a kind of VIP section of the IRS that works exclusively on these kind of tax returns to find the criminal activities. If you got large sums from say, a Russian Bank and did not report and money laundering etc.

        • Ullrich Fischer
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          I was able to get a .pdf copy of the SPLC’s 990 form from Canada, so anyone can get it. It does look pretty suspicious. $1.9 million in pay to the top 10 or so leaders of the organization and huge deposits in the Cayman Islands. WTF? Why is this not being reported in the New York Times? Are both sides of the political divide in the US now in their own respective bubbles of fake news? If there is a legit explanation for these things, why are SPLC spokesmodels not coming out with it?

          • Filippo
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

            “Why is this not being reported in the New York Times?”

            Right. Yet they can exhaustively bloviate about any and all things Taylor Swift.

            I may be in technical violation of the Roolz with the below request, even though it involves matters non-profit. If so, I apologize.

            Google has not been my friend in my best efforts to determine if the richly remunerated CEO of AT&T, Randall Stephenson, is paid a salary as President of the Boy Scouts of America, a non-profit. Can anyone answer that simple question for me (and tell me how to find it online)? (The only results I get regard what some consider the excessive $1.6M/yr salary of a previous “Chief Scout Executive” [“CSE,” if I may]).

            Mr. Stephenson was in the news recently, not only about his efforts to merge AT&T with Time Warner, but also regarding his kerfuffle with the President of the Girl Scouts of America, who is also the managing partner of a major accounting firm (KBMG, or some such moniker). In the NY Times article on the kerfuffle, Mr. Stephenson made it a point to comment on the effect of the kerfuffle on AT&T’s “brand,” which he said to the effect he would vigorously defend (as if there’s any possibly good reason to be mixing the two together). He also sent an email to many if not all AT&T employees whaahing about the matter.

            I imagine that the current BSA CSE, while perhaps not making the $1.6M/yr of his predecessor, nevertheless makes at least what the SPLC head honchos make, and have to wonder why it is not the CSE who speaks on behalf of the BSA, instead of President Stephenson, especially if the position of president is an unpaid honorary position. Stephenson has devoted sufficient time and energy to this BSA matter that, were I an AT&T shareholder, I’d wonder if he were not sufficiently devoting time and energy to his AT&T CEO job to justify the big bucks he’s paid.

            I take it that a Fortune 500 CEO – paid or not – carries more clout than a Chief Scout Executive, however handsomely paid.

            • Posted September 2, 2017 at 2:32 am | Permalink

              Full disclosure – AT&T employee for nearly 34 years.

              Scouts have two levels of leadership, the National Council leads the organization and is composed of volunteers. The Chief Scout Executive manages the day to day stuff. Stephenson is listed as a volunteer. He isn’t paid.

              Why did Stephenson answer the letter from the GSA rather than the CSE? At least according to the NY Times article I found, “….Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote to her counterpart, Randall Stephenson of the Boy Scouts.” She wrote to him directly, he responded. Why should it be otherwise?

              No, he did not send a letter to all AT&T employees or else I would have seen one. In fact, I didn’t even know about this until I read your post. It got no mention in the public relations summaries that we get and a lot of negative and positive news articles come through that every day. And as a reasonably substantial shareholder and someone who depends quite heavily on Mr. Stephenson’s leadership to keep the company relevant and me employed, I assure you the last thing any of us are concerned about are the amount of time he spends with the BSA.

              I don’t know who put the bug up your butt on this but you appear to be way off base.

              • Filippo
                Posted September 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

                Tardy in replying.

                Thank you for clarifying Mr. Stephenson’s status as a volunteer.

                I readily confess and regret my incorrect statement regarding Mr. Stephenson’s communication with employees. I was relying on memory instead of taking time to reread the two below relevant NY Times items to reconfirm the accuracy of my memory. A lesson in hubris/humility. To that extent, I cheerily admit that I was “off base.” A thousand apologies.

                I erroneously conflated the NY Times article (I gather that) you referenced (www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/us/girl-scouts-boy-scouts.html?_r=0) – describing the substance of an email Mr. Stephenson sent to the KMBG CEO complaining about Ms. Hannan – with a Times op-ed (www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/corporate-tax-cuts-jobs) reflecting Mr. Stephenson’s urging his employees – at a town hall in August at AT&T’s headquarters in Dallas – to call Congress and demand a corporate tax cut, and, among other items of information, also reflecting AT&T’s effective 8% tax rate during the last several years, in contrast with Mr. Stephenson’s vocal dissatisfaction with AT&T’s being subjected to the current 35% percent tax rate. (I trust that AT&T employees have not had to subsequently worry about being questioned by management about whether they did in fact call Congress. On the other hand, perhaps at least a few AT&T investors think employees should so call and be so questioned. We tolerate from a corporate private tyranny what we would not tolerate from government.)

                My factual transgression notwithstanding, the Times BSA/GSA article I gather you referenced stated that the dispute “spilled over” into the companies Stephenson and Hannan work for. Why should that reasonably happen?

                You say, ‘“….Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote to her counterpart, Randall Stephenson of the Boy Scouts.” She wrote to him directly, he responded. Why should it be otherwise?’

                By all means Mr. Stephenson should respond – directly – to Ms. Hannan – BSA president to GSA president. But he couldn’t leave it at that as, per the Times article, he emailed his KMBG counterpart (for some reason unidentified in the Times article – maybe because the Times perceived her as an innocent third party in this matter?), KMBG CEO Lynne M. Doughtie, I gather, burdening her with and lecturing her about the matter, and tattling on Hannan. Mr. Stephenson apparently viewed Ms. Hannan as a subordinate and inferior (“If one of my executives had sent Kathy a letter that unprofessional, I would want to know.”). Apparently he thinks Hannan ought not “get a bug up her butt” (as you so warmly and affectingly put it) and should keep her mouth shut if she wants to get along and stay out of trouble (and keep her job?), re: her apology to Stephenson.

                The Times article you reference also stated that Mr. Stephenson worried about potential damage to AT&T and that he would ‘obviously protect my brand aggressively.’ ” What does the AT&T “brand” reasonably have to do with BSA and/or GSA? Why does he conflate matters AT&T with matters BSA? Seems to me that, by his statements to the KMBG CEO regarding Ms. Hannan, and published in the media, Mr. Stephenson himself has invited scrutiny of the AT&T “brand.”

                Perhaps the GSA should bring aboard as a volunteer president a Fortune 500 CEO whose Master-of-Mankind heft and social status equals that of Mr. Stephenson, so that the two may communicate in private and avoid this public corporate squabbling and tarnishing of brands. Perhaps GSA should solicit boys’ participation. (How would that go over with Mr. Stephenson and the BSA membership? Since BSA actively seeks to recruit girls, BSA would hardly be in a position to protest, eh?) Or, in this age of LGBT diversity, perhaps BSA and GSA should join forces as “Scouts of America” and be one big happy scouting family, with corporate co-presidents of equal stature presiding. (Perhaps it would be better to do away with corporate CEO volunteers and let the Chief Scout Executives handle matters and not be burdened with public corporate tyrant squabbling. But then, whither philanthropic contributions – corporate or otherwise – to scouting?)

                I guess the reality is that, with rare exception (SPLC, Clooneyesque celebrity contributions notwithstanding?) non-profits must resign themselves to genuflecting before and accommodating their corporate masters. (Re: the recent Google-New America squabble.)

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Something SPLC-connected just showed up on my FB feed in the last couple days. I think it was from them but I can’t be sure, and it looked like something encouraging donations, but again I’m not sure since I just scrolled past it.

    But if it shows up again…

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Yeah seems suspicious. I was struck when I saw the piece about how much money they are sitting on in general; $328,000,000 is a lot.

  7. nicky
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    I’m not really surprised, their handling of money has been fishy for quite some time.
    – They pay themselves lavish salaries. I do not think the 300.000+ USD per annum is contested by anybody.
    – They have taken up the cause of political Islam. Their ludicrous ‘hate list’ being a clear illustration.
    – As a Recognised Charity, they do not have to pay taxes. Still, they go to tax heavens.
    – Hence, they have money they want to use for other purposes than poverty relief (at any rate, I think their original purpose was not poverty relief but judicial help and the like, please correct me if I’m mistaken).
    The question is what for? Enriching themselves even more? Subsidising organisations that cannot be called charitable? Something else?
    It is very, very fishy, IMMO.

    • davidintoronto
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      The money sheltering stuff does seem very suspicious. But as I understand it, a six-figure salary for the head of a non-profit is (nowadays) fairly common.

      • nicky
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        Still, 350.000 is substantially above the ‘low’ six figure incomes, it would put them in the top few %. For a charity, existing from donations, I consider that outrageously lavish.
        Of course, they have to pay income taxes on their personal income. How much would their net income be? With the low taxes for the rich in the US I guess still well into 6 figures.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 2, 2017 at 6:20 am | Permalink

          Taxes for these high incomes in the US are right around 33%. State and local taxes add more liability and vary by state.

  8. BJ
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    It’s suspicious in the extreme, and I can think of no legitimate reason, for a tax-exempt charity operating exclusively in the US to funnel millions of dollars to unregulated bank accounts in off-shore tax havens. It would surprise me if there isn’t something else going on here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem from this particular information that their actions are illegal (then again, they wouldn’t be putting illegal activity on their tax forms).

    What’s just as distressing — not that those of us who have been reading about the SPLC over the years are surprised — is their accruing $328 million in assets and $50 million in single year donations, while seemingly doing little more than running a website and putting out press releases. It’s hard for me to think this “charity” isn’t doing something involving funneling money to people or organizations they shouldn’t be considering their actions and inaction.

    • nicky
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

      Exactly my suspicion.

  9. Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Why would a tax exempt organization use tax havens? I don’t get it.

  10. BJ
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    If a tax-exempt charity were to move money to off-shore, unregulated bank accounts, couldn’t someone who has access to those accounts then transfer that money to further bank accounts without the prying eyes of the US government or any regulators knowing? For example, moving the money to personal off-shore accounts, or the foreign accounts of organizations to which they shouldn’t be giving or aren’t allowed to give money?

  11. yazikus
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    when the website contacted Jackson Thornton, the Montogomery, Alabama firm that does the SPLC’s taxes, they refused to comment and hung up.

    What on earth did they think the firm would do? That said, I’m more interested in what board members have to say than the receptionist at the CPA firm.

  12. Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    If you are managing an endowment fund, and that’s what the $328m is, then you try to maximize your return. If an offshore manager is providing the best returns, you send your money there. Lots of rich people do, why shouldn’t this organization?

    That said, the sooner they go out of business, the better.

    • BJ
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      I’m not a financial consultant, by my understanding is that people use offshore tax havens for taxes. What’s the point of using these accounts if the organization itself is tax-exempt? If the accounts merely provide better interest on the money, why move comparatively little in comparison with all the money they have?

  13. Posted September 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Has the SPLC directors (or whatever organization they have) changed recently? Could this and the “hate stuff” be part of a takeover or just new-and-clueless?

  14. pablo
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Daily Kos posted about it.


    • Harrison
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      The response there is typical. Bad faith abounds..

    • Andy
      Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      That diary is from 2010. Funny how this is suddenly breaking news all over the far right media. Smells a bit like a hit job, doesn’t it?

      • BJ
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        If that diary is from 2010, and this story in right-wing sources involves 2015 tax documents, how could it be a story from 2010 that they’re just now bringing out as a hit job?

        More importantly, “hit job” implies dishonesty. I don’t care what the motivations of reporting possibly corrupt and/or unethical activity, so long as it’s true. But who knows what the motivations are, as well as the motivations for nobody beyond right-wing sources reporting.

        • Andy
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          Er, if you follow the link, you’ll see quite clearly that it seems to be from 2010; why do you question that?
          Yup, “hit job” definitely implies dishonesty. 😉
          Leaving out context or relevant information can be deliberately misleading. For example, the salaries are not unusual for CEOs or Partners at a big law firm; and, from a quick Google, Tiger Global Management looks more like a way to invest across international boundaries rather than a tax dodge…

          • BJ
            Posted September 1, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

            I understand the diary is from 2010. The right-wing news outlets reporting their stories are using tax returns from 2015, and discussing transfers of funds made in 2015, so it’s not some “hit job” taken from 2010 and saved until now.

            Anyway, it doesn’t seem there is any “context” here. All that’s being reported is some transfers to offshore, unregulated accounts by a US-exclusive tax-exempt 501(c)(3). And those transfers, until the SPLC itself is willing to provide further context or some is dug up, look pretty strange.

            • Andy
              Posted September 1, 2017 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

              So, if you understand the diary was from 2010, why start your comment with “If that diary is from 2010,”?
              Similarly, there are tax records, so I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to claim they are “unregulated”.
              I suspect that’s why the story hasn’t got further traction, it looks “strange” to those of us who are “not a financial consultant”. My guess at the moment is the explanation will be that Tiger GM provided a convenient multi-national investment opportunity. If you’re saying that they provide an illegal way to dodge US-taxes, please be sure to provide your details to their libel lawyer…

      • Harrison
        Posted September 1, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        Many individuals or organizations can engage in unethical or even illegal behavior for years, even being reported on by smaller outlets, only by chance for the story which had been bubbling away for years to suddenly and for no particular reason break into the mainstream, after which something is actually finally done about it.

        Not saying this is for sure the case, but conspiracy is not the only explanation for why a longstanding concern suddenly becomes more widely known.

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 2, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          Sorta like Bill Cosby…

          • Andy
            Posted September 2, 2017 at 2:39 am | Permalink

            Or Pizzagate?

  15. Richard Sanderson
    Posted September 1, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    So, an increasingly regressive “anti-hate” organisation could also be corrupt?

    After their recent shenanigans, I am not at all surprised.

    If this is true, I hope they are thoroughly exposed and shamed. Their sources of funding should also be exposed.

  16. Paul Woodcraft
    Posted September 2, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    The SPLC seem to have lost their way and are now persecuting liberal / moderate muslims (Maajed Nawaz) as well as ex-muslims(e.g. Ayaan Hirsi Ali). If readers are unaware of Maajed Nawaz they can see his issue and why he is suing the SPLC at http://maajidnawaz.com. For a more general comment the New York Times wrote https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/opinion/southern-poverty-law-center-liberals-islam.html?mcubz=0

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