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 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
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

    Disclaimer

    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

    Registration

    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

    Cookies

    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

    Links

    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

    Mail-A-Friend

    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

    Emails

    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

    Security

    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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