United States: New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act Rollout Challenges

As the July 1, 2014 compliance date of the New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013 (the "Revitalization Act") quickly approaches, many charities operating in New York are confronting some difficult rollout challenges. While parts of the Revitalization Act are clear and welcomed (such as new rules that broaden the use of electronic communications and eliminate the need for supermajority board approvals of routine property transactions),1 other new requirements are puzzling to many of these charities' officers and directors. Indeed, as we counsel our clients, we are finding that certain new Revitalization Act rules that concern board operations are causing some charities, in particular family foundations and corporate foundations, to wonder whether operating through corporations formed in New York is desirable.

The charities that seem to be facing the hardest issues are foundations with small boards, and with directors that either directly and appropriately exert substantial influence over foundation operations (such as in a family foundation), or are employed by the businesses that have founded and fund these charities to do their good works.

We are finding that many, but not all, of the requirements causing concern are tied to vague drafting in the Revitalization Act. The good news is that we have also identified what we believe are reasonable interpretations of the law that align with workable solutions for many clients.

This client alert notes just a few of the more pressing Revitalization Act issues, as well as relevant potential solutions, as they appear to us today. We will be highlighting other aspects of the Revitalization Act rollout over the coming year. We stress that the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau may issue clarifying Revitalization Act guidance, and it is also possible that follow-up legislation may address some of these issues. Importantly, it is possible that this guidance or future legislation will not support our interpretations, although we hope that it does. Stay tuned.

Three Independent Directors

The Revitalization Act will require many charities to identify at least three individuals that satisfy detailed requirements of "independence" to serve as directors and oversee specified audit and financial reporting activities. (Three are needed because that is the fewest number of directors required by New York law to perform delegated board-level functions.) For many family foundations, corporate foundations, and labor/management charities – with small boards that are typically composed of individuals tied in some way to the charity or related entities – this requirement has created concern. This concern may be heightened when membership on the board has been finely balanced to achieve acceptable approaches to shared governance.

Most important for these charities to keep in mind is that the requirement is limited to charities that raise or "solicit" funding from the general public. However, some of these charities, in their annual charities filing with the New York Attorney General, may have been filing as soliciting charities even though they do not actually solicit funding. We suggest that such charities consider amending their filing status and we urge that any change in filing status in response to the Revitalization Act be made in consultation with corporate and tax counsel, closely assessing individualized factors and risks. For example, part of the analysis may be to examine whether the charity has been filing its annual Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") as a "public charity" (based on "public support" concepts of the IRS that differ from the New York concepts of "solicitation"). While we do not believe that the New York charitable solicitation concepts match the IRS concepts, tailored assessments should be made with both New York charitable solicitation laws and U.S. federal tax laws in mind.

For those charities that do solicit within the meaning of New York law, and whose small boards are populated by individuals employed by related entities, it will be worthwhile to take a hard look, again guided by counsel, at the kind of control exerted by a charity's affiliated corporate entities over the charity. Under the Revitalization Act, whether that employment disqualifies a director as "independent" will depend on whether the particular corporate or other entity that employs the director "controls" or is "under common control with" the charity. Notably, the Revitalization Act does not define "control."

Conflicts Policy Quagmire

Although the Revitalization Act is clear that the requirement for independent-director oversight of auditing and financial matters is limited to "soliciting" charities, the law is less clear about whether independent director oversight also applies to the law's requirements on conflicts policies.

Essentially, the Revitalization Act codifies the widespread practice already adopted by many charities – many motivated by the IRS Form 990 conflicts policy checkbox – to have a written conflicts policy. It also requires oversight of adoption, implementation, and compliance with the conflicts policy by the Board or the audit committee. Certain provisions of the Revitalization Act can be read as requiring these oversight functions to be handled by independent directors only. While our interpretation is not free from doubt, we believe that to the extent there is an obligation to have independent directors oversee conflicts policy administration, a close and reasonable reading of the Revitalization Act supports the interpretation that such requirement is also confined to soliciting charities. If not, many private foundations will be forced to make drastic board changes for conflicts policy oversight, while permitted to use directors that do not satisfy independence criteria for what is generally viewed as the critical audit oversight function – a seemingly absurd result.

Charities with conflicts policies based on the IRS form are probably already aware that they will need to amend those policies to satisfy Revitalization Act requirements, since the IRS form does not track all of the components of a conflicts policy required by the Revitalization Act. As these policies are drafted, special attention should be paid to the annual conflicts questionnaire required by the Revitalization Act. Many charities already distribute an IRS Form 990 annual questionnaire to directors, officers and key employees. Revitalization Act questionnaires will now be covering some, but not all, of the same territory. To avoid bombarding individuals with duplicative annual forms, consideration should be given as to whether to use a single questionnaire that reasonably covers both IRS and Revitalization Act requirements.

Approval of Director, Officer, and Key Employee Compensation

The Revitalization Act imposes significant new requirements concerning related-party transactions. Among other things, the Revitalization Act imposes a new requirement to "contemporaneously document in writing the basis for the board or authorized committee's approval" of a related party transaction, "including its consideration of any alternative transactions." The Revitalization Act also provides the Attorney General with enhanced enforcement authority to void, rescind, seek restitution, and remove directors in connection with a transaction that is not properly approved or that was not reasonable or in the best interests of the corporation at the time the transaction was approved.

Because the Revitalization Act broadly defines a "related party transaction" as "any transaction, agreement, or any other arrangement in which a related party [including a director, officer or key employee] of the corporation has a financial interest and in which the corporation or any affiliate of the corporation is a participant," there is some question as to whether compensation arrangements with directors, officers, and key employees are related party transactions. While the matter is not free from doubt, we believe that there is a reasonable basis for considering these compensation arrangements to be regulated in a manner distinct from related party transactions under the Revitalization Act. Clarification on this issue, however, would be helpful.

In addition, the Revitalization Act appears to define all directors as "related parties," and prohibit all related parties from participating in deliberations and voting pertaining to related party transactions, without specifically distinguishing between directors who have an interest in the particular transaction and those who do not. Guidance clarifying that the Revitalization Act will not be construed or enforced in such an impracticable manner would be helpful.

Also, certain ambiguous language in the Revitalization Act can be read as expressly prohibiting any director from being present at or participating in any board deliberations or vote concerning director compensation, while apparently requiring director approval of the compensation. While we believe that such a reading of the Revitalization Act would be unreasonable and contrary to principles of statutory construction, clarifying guidance would help avoid uncertainty on an important governance issue. In the interim, boards may wish to approve director compensation arrangements prior to July 1.

Extraterritorial Application of Revitalization Act

Finally, some commentators have raised concerns that certain provisions of the Revitalization Act relating to board composition and operation may be applicable to charitable organizations formed outside of New York, such as Delaware non-stock corporations. We have not found this to be a reasonable interpretation of the Revitalization Act. Again, however, clarifying guidance would be welcome.

Footnote

1 See http://nonprofitlaw.proskauer.com/tag/non-profit-revitalization-act-of-2013/ for prior discussion of these provisions of the Revitalization Act.

New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act Rollout Challenges

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions