ON-Lion Letter
In mid-February, the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal (BCPCR) at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., released a commissioned paper, "The Robertson v. Princeton Case:  Too Important to be Left to the Lawyers," by Neal B. Freeman. 

Robertson v. Princeton is the most-important donor-rights case in a generation.  Forty-eight years ago, the Robertsons devised a program to develop young Americans for government service in the international arena, giving Princeton University $35 million to launch and sustain it.  Then, after years of disagreement and contentious meetings between the family and the university about the intent of the program and whether its mission was actually being properly fulfilled, including whether those in it were even entering the foreign service, the family filed suit in 2002.  By 2007, the gift's value grew to approximately $930 million by 2007.

Earlier this year, the Robertsons and Princeton announced a settlement in the case, as part of which the university paid about $100 million -- around $40 million to reimburse the Robertsons for litigation costs and $50 million plus interest to establish a new foundation to achieve their original purpose.  Freeman, chairman of the Foundation Management Institute, advised the family in the case.

"At the heart of every charitable contribution is the concept of trust -- trust by the donor that the grantee will do what he has agreed to do," Freeman writes in the paper.  "If that trust is allowed to erode, if the donor can no longer rely on the grantee’s assurance, then charitable contributions will decline and the civil society they sustain will decline along with them.
"If that were to happen -- if the private, voluntary, civil society that Tocqueville first acclaimed, and that the Bradley Center still celebrates, were to wither away -- America would abandon one of its defining national traits," he concludes.  "Absent a vibrant civil society, only government would be left to fill the social vacuum and the America of tomorrow would come to look very much like the Europe of today."

"The Robertson v. Princeton Case" includes comments on Freeman's paper by, among others, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute's Pablo Eisenberg, the University of Texas's Peter Frumkin, The Randolph Foundation's Heather Higgins, the Philanthropy Roundtable's Adam Meyerson, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni's (ACTA's) Anne D. Neal, the William E. Simon Foundation's James Piereson, and the Capital Research Center's (CRC's) Terrence Scanlon and Martin Morse Wooster.  It also includes Freeman's responses to those comments.

While "[t]he university will now legally enjoy unrestricted access to most of the Robertson funds -- currently totaling about $700 million -- to spend as it wishes," Meyerson writes, "the magnitude of the settlement is a recognition that there was sufficient merit in the Robertsons' charges to bring the case to trial.  As a result, universities and other grantees in the future will pay more attention to understanding, clarifying, and at least initially adhering to the intentions of their donors."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports BCPCR.  Bradley also supports ACTA, the Philanthropy Roundtable, and CRC.
Actions: E-mail | Permalink |