Decline and Fall of the Vanguard Foundation

Once acclaimed as a pioneer in philanthropy and an important force for social justice, the Vanguard Foundation is no more. The full story will take years to emerge, but we report here in Part I on some of the clues to its sorry demise. A link to Part II is at the end of the article.

In San Francisco, the Vanguard Public Foundation is out of business, its nonprofit status suspended by the California Secretary of State, its website down, its assets apparently gone. Federal and state court lawsuits involving donors, investors, staff, and trustees question what happened to millions of dollars that flowed through the foundation to progressive causes.

But nonprofits and foundations go out of business all the time, particularly in this nonprofit-devouring recession. What makes the Vanguard Public Foundation worth special inquiries? Is it because of the celebrities associated with Vanguard -- Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, among others? But the glam factor is not the story.

The Vanguard Public Foundation (not to be confused with the Vanguard Charitable Fund related to the for-profit Vanguard), was lauded in its heyday as a new wave of philanthropy, a generational shift, an exemplar, and a model.

The famous people associated with the foundation are neither the story nor the cause of the foundation's demise. Rather the story may be one of organizational hubris, board narcolepsy, and the disease of our time: the siren song of the get-rich investment plan which, like Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme, was just too good to be true.

A new generation of philanthropy

Established in 1972, the Vanguard Public Foundation was among the first of the social justice foundations established by the young scions of wealthy families, inheritors of corporate fortunes who were devoted to supporting a progressive, very liberal social and political agenda. One of the first of the "rich kid foundations," Vanguard was heralded as an inspiring model of a new generation's remaking of philanthropy.

Vanguard rose as a leader among some two dozen new progressive public grantmakers that became members of a network called the Funding Exchange. Largely modeled on Vanguard are the Haymarket People's Fund in Boston and the Liberty Hill Foundation in Santa Monica. In 1977, Vanguard produced the bible for these funds, Robin Hood Was Right: A Guide to Giving Your Money for Social Change, re-issued by the Funding Exchange 25 years later.

Vanguard's grantmaking role remained distinctive, putting money into social movement causes, often before they became politically acceptable and often to organizations and actions that were never going to generate mainstream support. Among the often controversial groups that benefitted from Vanguard grants:

  • Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER)
  • Astraea National Lesbian Action Foundation
  • Center for Third World Organizing
  • Emilio Zapata Oakland Street Academy
  • Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
  • KPFA (Pacifica Network Free Speech Radio)
  • National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
  • Rainforest Action Network
  • School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL)
  • Solidarity Info Services
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Young Worker Project

Vanguard was a friend to emerging causes which often went on to become more accepted by the public and more fundable by mainstream foundations. Donors also gave funds to such causes through Vanguard, enabling unincorporated groups to receive donations.

These are the kinds of grants that cause heartburn for the likes of Glenn Beck ("Marxist foundations of the 'social justice' movement") and Bill O'Reilly ("pinheads!").

Are progressive foundations in general suffering?

Is Vanguard's demise reflective of a downturn in these foundations of young (and in many cases, now no longer young) progressive rich people? While just about every public foundation has experienced the downturn while raising money from wealthy donors, the members of the Funding Exchange look healthier than one might expect, even in many cases increasing their grantmaking over a period of many peaks and troughs in the economy. For example, grantmaking grew between 1998 and 2008/9 at Liberty Hill, the Appalachian Community Foundation, Bread and Roses Community Fund (Philadelphia), the Headwaters Foundation for Justice (Twin Cities), and the McKenzie River Gathering (Oregon).

Others have shrunk over the years, perhaps as the big community foundations offered themselves as social justice competitors for donor-advised funds, others perhaps simply due to changes in leadership and management. The Southern Partners Fund in Georgia, Haymarket, and even the North Star Fund in New York City are significantly smaller than they were a dozen years ago, but they still exercise influence in their communities and within the philanthropic sector.

Unlike many of its peer progressive foundations, the Vanguard Public Foundation dissolved into nothing -- other than litigation. Why?

Mouli makes the world go 'round

In 2002, Vanguard leadership met an exceptionally intriguing entrepreneur named Samuel "Mouli" Cohen. In addition to his glamorous background, Cohen reportedly promised to achieve astonishing financial returns using Vanguard's funds as investments.

The Israeli-born Cohen (no relation to this author) and his wife Stacy lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous in a mansion in Belvedere, California. A master of self-promotion, Cohen's multiple personal websites, Facebook page, and press releases reveal him to be anything but modest; he describes himself as a "brilliant visionary," "business tycoon and magnate," "world renowned philanthropist," and "super entrepreneur."

Given the charges and countercharges now swirling around Mouli's relationship with the foundation and its leaders, some of his self-promotion is unintentionally humorous and ironic, particularly this from his Mouli Cohen on Business webpage: "(I)ntegrity is one of the most important characteristics for any investor. Investors, customers, employees and partners will reward you endlessly if you always act with complete integrity, according to Mouli Cohen."

It's hard not to give him one-name celebrity status, like Cher, Bono, Usher, or Madonna; his over-the-top persona demands it. As a philanthropist, Mouli's exploits, mostly known from press releases and philanthropic blog posts that he seems to have generated, didn't sync with Vanguard's values, mission, or funding priorities. For instance, representative of Mouli's philanthropic activities were support for the European Center for Jewish Students, which works to increase the Jewish population of Europe against the threat of intermarriage and assimilation; a Jewish orphanage in Odessa; facilities development at the Ukraine tomb of a Lubavitcher Hasidic rabbi; and a library and museum in Israel affiliated with the Lubavitcher Hasids. In addition, he claims to be a leader and donor to several organizations which mention him nowhere on their websites, including Camp Okizu, Seva Foundation, and Soroko Medical Center.

Regardless of these differences in philanthropic goals, Vanguard became interested in Mouli for his investment acumen. A self-described technology entrepreneur, he claims to have founded or led business ventures which have generated some $3 billion in shareholder value. One of his more recent activities was a digital entertainment firm called Ecast, which provides services to bars and nightclubs.

The picture blurs

Now the story gets murky with a mix of charges and countercharges, and of course, litigation. Apparently, in 2002, Mouli met Vanguard CEO Hari Dillon and actor/activist Danny Glover. According to complaints filed in state and federal courts, Mouli said he would help the foundation by allowing Vanguard and its individual donors to buy shares in the privately owned Ecast. Dillon and Glover formed general partnerships through which they purchased several million dollars worth of Ecast -- or thought they did. The Contra Costa Times reported that Vanguard donors ultimately put in over $20 million more in philanthropic money and personal investment cash. How much of this was Vanguard money repurposed through Mouli is unclear.

The story gets even murkier. The investors -- now plaintiffs -- say Mouli stated that Ecast was to be acquired by Microsoft, which would generate a return on investment, according to the Times, of 1,000 percent. And according to peHUB Wire, the deal was to buy Ecast stock at $3.50 a share, but get paid off in Microsoft shares after the purchase at $23 per share. But something or other kept putting off the miracle. The Microsoft acquisition reportedly got delayed over EU rules, which generated a need for more fees to cover transaction costs. Then there were reports that Ecast was considering a competing bid from Google, further delaying the deal. Ultimately, there was no Microsoft purchase, no Google bid, and the money disappeared ("stashed" in Cohen's secret accounts and distributed to family members like wife Stacy, according to plaintiffs), and the investors were, one might say, aggrieved.

Mouli's attorney denies it all.

Even Ecast sounds aggrieved, stating that Mouli Cohen left Ecast in 2002, roughly when these dealings began. An Ecast attorney told Vending Times that the firm has had "ongoing" legal problems with Cohen, including two cases filed in 2003 and 2004 against Cohen about "very similar" charges that were settled out of court. If it was true that Dillon, Glover, and the Vanguard Public Foundation investors thought they were buying Ecast stock, they were doing so with a guy who had been out of Ecast's picture for years.

Transforming a social justice foundation into what?

But questions of questionable management and governance decisions at the foundation do not seem to have been limited to this speculative multi-million dollar investment with someone of dubious provenance. Why didn't someone notice the following?

  • Annual operating deficits: $427,000 deficit in 2003, $1.33 million deficit in 2009 and $1.37 million deficit the subsequent year
  • Deficit of $1.95 million in 2006, nearly equal to the $1.99 million received in contributions, gifts and grants
  • In its last publicly accessible Form 990 in March 2007, Vanguard had total assets of $453,000 and total liabilities of $3.59 million
  • That same 990 showed $1.25 million in loans from officers and directors and $1.8 million in mortgages and other notes

The operating deficit dropped to "only" $1.2 million on its final Form 990, but by then the foundation was living on fumes -- or loans.

By 2007, loans from officers and directors included $5,000 from Danny Glover, $100,000 from board member Susanne Moore, and $600,800 from CEO Hari Dillon. In Vanguard's 990 for the fiscal year ending in 2008, Dillon's loan to the foundation had grown to $1,172,511.

The Vanguard Public Foundation was living on borrowed funds largely from the CEO, whose salary and benefits at the foundation combined do not appear to have ever topped $90,000 annually. But the foundation didn't appear to be thinking about belt-tightening during this period of financial stress. Travel expenses skyrocketed and salaries grew as significant funds were used to send CEO Dillon, senior staff member Gus Newport, and others on "projects."

A grantmaking foundation was turning into an operating foundation, running its own programs instead of making grants to nonprofits. In its last available 990, the foundation lists $3.35 million in total expenses, including the following:

  • $600,000 from Vanguard's donor-advised funds to the Peninsula Community Foundation
  • $103,000 from non-donor-advised funds to Gathering for Justice c/o Belafonte Enterprises (singer Harry Belafonte is one of Vanguard's founders)
  • Only $129,000 in other non-donor-advised grants

In the fiscal year ending March 2007, Vanguard's total expenses were almost exactly what it owed in loans. The foundation was investing, borrowing, and spending itself out of existence.

Oddly, the partnerships established by Dillon to invest money in Mouli Cohen's Ecast scheme made him personally fully liable for the funds. Typically, a general partner would never expose himself to such risk, unless perhaps the deal was a sure thing with a big upside. But the foundation's investments and the donors' additional funds didn't yield a nickel, at least perhaps to anyone other than Mouli Cohen. This left Dillon on the hook. In 2010, Dillon filed for personal bankruptcy, listing assets of $836,000, primarily from the value of his home, secured claims of $721,000 (probably a home mortgage), and unsecured claims totaling a whopping $21.6 million.

Lessons from Vanguard's demise

These are all clues to a story for which we have neither an end nor a satisfactory answer about motivations and choices. More of the Vanguard Public Foundation story will emerge in the months ahead as lawsuits wend their ways through the courts, but some lessons are discernable now:

1. Too good to be true: The lesson of Mouli Cohen, like the lesson of Bernie Madoff, is to be careful about schemes that will make your nonprofit or foundation rich. Mouli's deal was better than anything Bernie Madoff ever pitched. It should have been obvious.

2. Character counts: Dillon and many of the Vanguard people are hard to find now or won't speak on the record, but Mouli continues to issue self-congratulatory pronouncements on his website. It's hard to imagine that the philanthropic values of Mouli Cohen (or his wife, the author of the Kosher Billionaire's Secret Recipe) were any kind of comfortable match with those of the foundation.

3. Non-attentive trust in the CEO is not a healthy governing model: With warning signals in abundance, observers suggest that the board was even a little mesmerized by the CEO and his celebrity friends. And board meetings were reportedly very rare.

4. Give the grants to nonprofits, not yourself: It's so easy for foundations -- even progressive foundations -- to decide they should run their own programs rather than give grants. Whether one agrees with Vanguard's agenda or not, a legacy of giving grants to causes it believed in would have been one to be proud of . . . rather than one dirtied by using the funds on its own activities.

5. Are progressive groups especially vulnerable to disengagement? Some have suggested that Vanguard's moves to turn over some decision making to community leaders left donors disengaged, and resulted in board members who were less attentive to grantmaking decisions and governance responsibilities.

6. Sleepy press, sleepy government: How does a public grantmaker disappear and garner so little attention from the press -- including the nonprofit press -- and no attention from the government? The Internal Revenue Service? The Attorney General?

There are many stories to be found in the rise, decline, fall, and aftermath of the Vanguard Public Foundation, and this article only touches on one of them. Tragic stories have at least as much to teach us as the rosy, jargon-filled stories about themselves that foundations pump out by the thousands. The Vanguard story is one from which we will be learning for a long, long time.

Rick Cohen writes this column for every other issue of Blue Avocado. He is also National Correspondent for the Nonprofit Quarterly, and former Executive Director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Rick is known for his investigative reporting, sharp eye, and commitment to integrity. Here he is as detective Sherlock Holmes on the trail for clues. How did he find the outfit? Elementary, my dear Watson.

Comments (75)

  • Thanks for the clarification, John.

    Aug 12, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Seems like both Cohen and the reply skip the real issue. How did the CEO raise millions of dollars but Vanguard was unable to pay out it's grants? If Vanguard gave out grants doesn't that mean there was money from Vanguard donors that were meant to go to those non profits? Sounds like donor funds were used for the private deal which would be an illegal use of donor funds. If this was going on for years as the writer indicated obviously there is a legal issue about the misappropriation of Vanguard funds. Has anyone looked into this? Maybe in this election cycle the DA would be interested anonymous

    Aug 12, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I was involved with a non-profit whose chair decided to push through a resolution that forced the non-profit to hire a person whose only real function was to provide PR services to a donor in exchange for the donor's contribution to the non-profit. The donor was contributing $100,000 (in restricted funds), the cost of the new employee was $120,000 (which had to come from unrestricted funds). The chair of this non-profit was a paid board member of the donor organization. This chair controlled the 20 member board through bylaws that allowed 3 people to make all decisions.
    I tried to blow the whistle, but there was no one to do anything about it. It appears that in our legal system, this kind of conflict of interest cannot be punished.
    It will be interesting to see if Dillon gets hung for his actions.
    Anonymous

    Aug 13, 2010
  • I'm just curious as to why the court records are sealed in this case. Cohen was indicted, arrested in LA and apparently is now in No. California. Why can't we access information on the case to insure that he gets at least a similar fate to Bernie Madoff? What is it about this particular Ponzi scheme that prevents it from being accessible to internet users, as opposed to the rank and file schemes? I'd appreciate any guesses or educated thoughts you might have on this topic: I'm just hoping we will be able to follow the case enough and monitor how it progresses so that Mouli et al don't just get a cursory sentence served in a federal "country club." Thanks. Very interesting and scary reading. We need more "due diligence" training and more education as to how to spot fraud/questionable entries in financial documents, including annual reports. NC Brown

    Aug 17, 2010
  • An electronic copy of the indictment of Mouli Cohen is available on-line. John Levin

    Aug 18, 2010
  • Many thanks to the author and to Blue Avocado for shedding some light on this important issue!

    Until this past year, we were longtime donors to Vanguard who, as part of our charitable giving, gave the foundation a couple hundred dollars at the end of each year. When December 2009 rolled around, we looked for the Vanguard annual appeal & envelope; nothing had come in the mail. We thought: We’ll just send them a check.

    We looked online for Vanguard’s address. There was no website, and we wondered what it meant that they didn’t have an online presence. So we called a friend who’s knowledgeable in the world of local nonprofits, who said he’d heard something was fishy with Vanguard and advised us to donate elsewhere. Further online research turned up the Contra Costa Times article but not much else. By this point the Mouli/Ecast scam had been unfolding FOR YEARS.

    When we began donating to Vanguard many years ago, we knew people involved with the foundation. We naively assumed there was a chain of trust from that time forward. How many other donors still don’t know what’s gone on?

    Yesterday we checked the justgive.org website, an online clearinghouse for donations to nonprofit organizations. They still had a link for donating to Vanguard.

    Some questions:

    Our Dec. 2008 annual donation check to Vanguard was cashed promptly. How was that money used? How were our donations for the several years before that used? Where is the accountability?

    Having messed up so badly, why have Hari Dillon et al. failed to atone, take responsibility, make amends, regardless of whether their mistakes were miscalculations or malfeasance?

    Many people knew about the Mouli/Ecast/Vanguard mess: Vanguard staff, board, other ‘insiders.’ Why did none of them blow the whistle, or even quietly spread the word, that something was amiss, so that the situation could move toward a better resolution?

    Both of us work for nonprofit organizations in San Francisco and are worried about the chilling effect this scandal could have on the progressive community’s trust in, and willingness to give to, other nonprofits.

    --Myra Levy and Charlie Varon, San Francisco

    Aug 19, 2010
  • Myra and Charlie: thank you for your comments, which have the authority of authenticity and are so poignant to read.

    Sep 16, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Here's an update on the justgive.org website. I recently found this article and googled Vanguard to see what came up. I found the justgive.org link a couple of pages in and it was still an active link. Shouldn't this online clearinghouse have figured out by now that Vanguard is history and taken down the link by now? Seriously, this is near a year later so this clearinghouse needs to get on the ball and update that page.

    Aug 12, 2011
  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for publishing this article. The comments by nonprofits who smelled a rat but were intimidated and had no good venue for whistleblowing are very sad. I am wondering if extending the internal whistleblower hotline to grantees makes sense. I see the David & Lucille Packard Foundation is using EthicsPoint for their hotline. Your thoughts Jan and Rick?

    Aug 24, 2010
  • I've been hesitant to respond to all of this. We all have to take some responsibility. However, it was incredibly difficult to get from Hari any real accountable information. We did try to hold board meetings yet Hari refused and/or came up with excuses not have them. He even claimed to have had serious health issues which I have since found out to be not true. We did give too much trust to him, believing that a "deal"'was going through that would benefit Vangaurd and then our non profit clients. You touched on the travel expenses but it was even worse than reported. He used monies to pay for extravagant dinners, parties, and rentals As ED he was using a personal driver and a couple of personal assistants. Many of us on the board questioned his spending but were unable to meet directly with him. As a former member of the board and a donor I believe we should have an investigation of his use of funds for personal expenses. The whole story hasn't come out. I'm ashamed of the fact I didn't do more around accountability but we were never allowed by the ED to look at the books Former Vanguard Board Member

    Sep 04, 2010
  • If I am not mistaken, in the article about Vanguard Foundation, in regards to this: "(not to be confused with the Vanguard Charitable Fund related to the for-profit Vanguard)", it would be better to identify the latter as the financial investment organization Vanguard, because at some complex level it is a non-profit. 
    Thanks for the detailed article.

    Sep 14, 2010
  • Absolutely correct. The "nonprofit" Vanguard that we were referring to is the national fund, largely managing donor advised funds, affiliated with the for-profit Vanguard. It is the third largest of these entities (behind similar national programs offered by Fidelity and Schwab) and is called the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program (https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/).

    Sep 16, 2010
  • How can this happen? Come on...absolute power corrupts absolutely. A lot of CEO's (what happened to Executive Director?) run their organizations however they want and their staff either toe the line or are on the bread line. If the IRS, that after the Smithsonian incident (June 2006?), changed the 990's to incorporate some measures of Sarbanes-Oxley didn't notice the operating deficits, then why do we even fill these out. Basically for some of us in this INDUSTRY, the rules don't apply (labor, compliance, financial, common courtesy) because they are "making the world a better place". Maybe when board members start being held personally responsible for their lack of governance, things may change or they won't be on the board. Why do we assume that because we are in non-profit that things operate differently than for-profits? The only difference is no one calls us on our s**t, at least not publicly. You'll find no whistleblowers here. Check out npconfidential.wordpress.com.

    Sep 16, 2010
  • The Winston Smith in 1984 [the novel] worked in the Ministry of Truth, right? Keep looking for nonprofit truth. I would suggest that foundations are not quite the equivalent of Big Brother in terms of absolute power, but you are on target about how quiescent so many nonprofits (and nonprofit staff and board members) are when it comes to dealing with philanthropy. It isn't a matter of absolute power, but we don't spend much time in the sector taking a hard look at philanthropy and how it treats its nonprofit grantees or grant applicants. There are a few people who have taken an occasionally hard-eyed look over the years, such as Mark Dowie and Joan Roelofs, but not many. There is a big question about the role of board members, how much attention they are paying to their roles and responsibilities. We'll address that in the next piece we publish on the Vanguard Public Foundation story. I will say, however, that some years ago, I ran a training program for nonprofit board members, I outlined their roles and responsibilities, and the first question raised by a participant when I finished was, "how can I get off my board?"

    Sep 16, 2010
  • Yes, that is me. Thank you for the response. We (those of us in Philanthropy), tend to put blinders on when it comes to ourselves and how we do our work. We no longer have meaningful conversations about the issues that we work on or how we see (really feel about) the people we purport to serve. We are not self aware about our own privilege and/or power and how it affects our relationships with each other, our "clients", our staff, our board and our funders. After being the non-profit sector for 20+ years, I'm beginning to think that working in the for-profit sector would more honest, at least, my idealist expectations would not be battered on a daily basis.

    Sep 17, 2010
  • I am writing to follow-up on the recent article you posted on Blue Avocado about the demise of the Vanguard Foundation.  It was obviously a tough read:  both because Vanguard was one of the original, strongest members of the Funding Exchange network, and because of the painful story and bad decisions that led to its demise.

    In your piece, you mentioned that, "The Southern Partners Fund in  Georgia, Haymarket, and even the North Star Fund in New York City are significantly smaller than they were a dozen years ago, but they still exercise influence in their communities and within the philanthropic sector."

    I wanted to provide you with additional context for North Star Fund to show the actual difference in our available resources between now and 12 years ago.  I'm happy to say that despite the current tough economic climate, our impact is growing, along with our available resources for grantmaking.

    • During the first year that you reference, roughly 1997 and 1998, North Star Fund had been administering a very large donor advised fund on behalf of Frances Lear. This was a welcome, but unusual, opportunity for us. Meanwhile, in that same year, North Star Fund raised and gave out $483,416 in grants and program activities through our Community Funding Board (meaning not related to our donor advised program). During our fiscal year 2010, which ended on June 30, 2010, we raised and gave out $1,105,589 in grants and program activities through our now Community Funding Committee (see below)   - an increase of 129%.
    • In addition to the growth in unrestricted funds given out through our Community Funding Committee and our participation in the  New York area, funders collaborative for technical assistance, our donor advised partnerships have been growing steadily.  I took the helm in 2003. In FY 2004, we disbursed $21,796 in donor advised grants. In FY 2009, we disbursed $1.3 million.

    In our current fiscal year (ending 6/30/11), this amount will increase again. After being asked for help by an activist group called Western Queens Power for the People, the Public Service Commission of New York State fully vetted and selected North Star Fund to administer a green infrastructure fund in Western Queens that will give out $8.9 million over the next three years.  This fund resulted from a settlement that was negotiated between Western Queens Power for the People and Con Edison, following their mismanagement of a 2006 power outage in the neighborhoods of Western Queens.

    In the last several years, we have actually changed our governance structure to enable local organizers and our donors and allies to work in partnership through our Community Funding Committee.  And we have a very stringent, two-tier conflict of interest policy that holds everyone that we invite onto our funding committee accountable.

    And, after several years of pilot activities, next year we will begin to launch an ambitious new donor organizing program that we are confident will raise significantly more funds and enlarge our profile in the New York philanthropic community.

    In July of 2002, you may recall that my predecessor, Betty Kapetanakis, was suddenly killed.  This tragedy resulted in a difficult period for North Star.  Yet throughout all of the challenges faced in the wake of Betty's death -- and this is an important dimension to North Star Fund's story -- we never stopped our twice-a-year grantmaking. Indeed, several of the groups that came to us for initial
    funding during this period have since achieved significant policy victories and changes on-the-ground, including Domestic Workers United, Public Housing Residents of the Lower East Side, Brandworkers International, and the Telephone Justice Campaign.

    Best regards, Hugh Hogan
    Executive Director, NORTH STAR FUND

    Oct 01, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    Bravo on a well detailed article. So what now? Former Vanguard Board members, employee's, associates, friends of friends, family members of employee's, where does your conscience lead you now? Social change and justice is calling. It is time to have this article on mainstream news and not just on the "mainstream" nonprofit world via Blue Avocado. Thank you Blue Avocado for your existance. Those that know or experienced this blatant theft it's your time to step up. Let's not believe it was just Mouli and Dillon, I'm sure there are others within Vanguard sweating right about now. Just look for the uncomfortable wet spots.

    Oct 06, 2010
  • Anonymous

    you will be pleased to hear that Mouli is in fact in jail waiting trial and bail has been denied. Perhaps there is some justice out there after all.

    Oct 28, 2010
  • Dear Anonymous: I read the filing by Mouli's lawyers regarding why he could and should be released--giving up his passport, putting up a bond, no previous convictions, etc. Given Mouli's international connections and his possible access to millions of dollars from aggrieved investors, I couldn't imagine how a judge would release this guy. He has "flight risk" emblazoned on his forehead, no? Thanks for the update.

    Oct 29, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I'd like to comment on the posting by the former Vanguard Board Member, dated Sep 5 and specifically:

    " However, it was incredibly difficult to get from Hari any real accountable information. We did try to hold board meetings yet Hari refused and/or came up with excuses not have them."

    Excuse me, but don't your bylaws state that Board members can call for a meeting? What kind of weak excuse is this? What about your fiduciary duty as Board members? You're lucky the charities who were promised grants which Vanguard reneged on didn't sue you! Or how about the donors who relied on you to carry out your fiduciary duty properly? I presently work for a nonprofit whose Board schedules its meetings and tells us staff what reports they want from us -- and that's it.

    And given what a pathetic job the SEC did in NOT ferreting out Bernie Madoff -- I wouldn't use the SEC as a model for the nonprofit sector.

    Nov 04, 2010
  • Dear Anonymous: Take a look at Part II of my articles on the Vanguard Public Foundation here at the Blue Avocado. You'll find that I made a similar point about the power that the board had to take action if it had wanted to, such as calling for meetings or requesting (demanding) financial documents. Your comment about the SEC however takes us into the issue of nonprofit oversight. The IRS is a tax collection agency and not necessarily well suited for some of the accountability roles that nonprofit oversight demands. There have been occasional calls for the creation of a body like the UK's commission that oversees voluntary sector organizations, but the SEC experience is interesting. It's not simply that the SEC didn't ferret out Madoff. Many federal oversight bodies end up becoming captured by and subservient to the sectors they are charged to oversee (take a look at the federal unit in charge of permitting off-shore oil exploration). Aside from the board responsibility questions, I would love to see a spirited debate on the webpages of the Avocado on what kind of state and federal oversight regimes ought to be created (or revived) to address what boards and staff fail to do to keep their organizations accountable and responsible. Rick

    Nov 05, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Is Mouli still in custody? Has his trial started yet?

    Jul 06, 2011
  • Anonymous

    He is in jail and convicted! Juror.

    Nov 10, 2011
  • Anonymous

    He deserves to have the book thrown at him! Thank you, Juror. -Witness and Victim.

    Nov 11, 2011
  • Anonymous

    Dumb ass liberals. They deserve it. If Danny glover and Harry b. would have just given their money to the poor instead of trying to enrich themselves in some get rich scheme, their money could have helped some truly desprate people. Liberalism really is a mental disease.

    Jun 03, 2013

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