On February 16, 2018 a hearing was held in Fayetteville AR before federal Judge Timothy Brooks in the case of former GFA donors Garland and
Phylliss Murphy v. Gospel for Asia, K.P. Yohannan, Gisela Punnose, David Carroll, and Pat Emerick. The Murphy’s complaint accuses GFA and named defendants of conspiring to defraud donors and misrepresent the way donated funds have been spent.
This hearing was convened to resolve an ongoing dispute regarding the discovery of evidence in the case. While the transcript is long (over 90 pages), if you donate to Gospel for Asia or are considering it, you should read it.
The context for the hearing is the claim by former GFA donors Garland and Phylliss Murphy that GFA diverted funds away their intended purpose. At this point in the case, the Murphys and their attorneys have requested documents which would demonstrate a link between donations and expenditures. Over several months, GFA attorneys have promised such evidence but have not provided it. The reason Judge Brooks called the hearing was to resolve the situation.
My goal now is to outline two high points of this hearing in the context of many months of reporting on the GFA scandal.
Judge Brooks actually asked the following question in the hearing:
I’ve next got a question for everyone. Will you please raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the movie “Groundhog Day.”
I feel like I am Phil Connors who was portrayed by Bill Murray in the movie “Groundhog Day” in dealing with this discovery dispute; and I am of the view, having read the motion and the response, that the defendants, at least in their answers — their answer to these requests for admissions, and in their response to the motion for sanctions, are like all of the people that Phil Connors was dealing with in the movie “Groundhog Day.”
He woke up every day repeating February 2nd, over and over again, but the people that he was interacting with in the plot of this movie didn’t realize that; and I feel like when I read the defendants’ answers and when I read their response that it is as if this Court had not already addressed and ruled on some of these same issues at least twice, if not more and, yet, here we are again.
Judge Brooks had already ruled twice that GFA needed to produced documents in response to questions from the Murphys about where money was spent. They have failed to do so. By this hearing, Judge Brooks summarized the situation:
Plaintiffs now once again seek answers to the same questions that they’ve been asking for months: Was donated money diverted to other causes and do defendants have information or documents that would prove how the money was spent.
This is the crux of the case. If GFA defendants would like to clear their name, they could produce evidence which shows how donations were spent. They haven’t done so. As I pointed out in December of last year, GFA is dragging this out. Anyone who says differently simply isn’t dealing with the case documents.
Donors should ask GFA why a federal judge is exasperated over GFA’s inability to document how donations are spent.
GFA Staff Authorized Transfer of Money from Canada to India to the U.S.
A stunning revelation in this transcript is the disclosure that GFA’s former Chief Operating Officer David Carroll and CEO K.P. Yohannan allegedly had wire authority to move $20 million dollars from India to Texas, presumably for the completion of GFA’s headquarters. Staff were initially told that an anonymous donor gave those funds. Then in May 2015, Carroll told staff that one of GFA’s field partners in India took out a loan for nearly $20 million and sent it to Texas. Carroll and Yohannan told staff that the decision to give the funds was made by the Indian leadership without any influence from Yohannan. According to Yohannan, he had no authority over the decision.
In the February hearing transcript, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Stanley presented evidence which contradicts this narrative. Here is the relevant portion of Stanley’s testimony.
MR. STANLEY: They [GFA’s attorneys] say that the defendants [GFA] don’t control these third-party entities. I have two documents, if I might — let me find them — showing just the opposite. Here’s one. This document is 2015, April 2015, produced by them from Reverend Dr. K. P. Yohannan, president, asking them to transfer Canadian dollars, or CAD — I don’t know. CAD, those are cash deposits — for Gospel For Asia (India), for further credit to Gospel For Asia (India). These are from — remitting it to the state bank of India in Canada, and I can show you that account number is Gospel For Asia (India). I have the accounts for that. That’s K. P. Yohannan doing that.
David Carroll says he has no control over it. I’ve got David Carroll requesting a document — sorry. There it is. This is David Carroll who says, “I have no control over the field partners,” right? “We have no control; we have nothing to do with them”; yet, David Carroll sends a letter to Sarah Billings from the Royal Bank of Canada asking them to transfer $20 million from Gospel For Asia (India) to GFA’s account in the United States, signed David Carroll, CEO, Gospel For Asia. How could he authorize money coming out of a Gospel For Asia (India) account? We know it’s a Gospel For Asia (India) account because it’s account number — 489 is the last four digits. Here it is. There’s a statement from the Royal Bank of Canada, Gospel For Asia (India), care of Teresa Chupp, in Carrollton — that’s their old address before they moved to Wills Point — for Gospel For Asia (India), and there’s the account number.
So clearly the spin that they have been told that these folks have no control over the field partners is simply not true. They have control over it. They have wire instructions, wire authority. K. P. Yohannan is the metropolitan of that. You read the constitution from prior hearings. It talks about all of his roles in the constitution.
All of these folks, Mr. Carroll, Reverend Carroll, Mr. Emerick, the Reverend Emerick, all the others have sworn total loyalty to K. P. Yohannan. His niece, Siny Punnose also have sworn loyalty to K. P. Yohannan. They have absolute control of that.
According to Stanley, he has documentation that K.P. Yohannan authorized the movement of funds from the Canadian GFA to GFA-India. He also claims documentation of David Carroll authorizing a transfer of $20 million from the India field partner back to the United States organization. If Stanley’s representations are as they seem, this information contradicts what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability said they were told by GFA’s leaders and it contradicts what GFA leaders told staff in 2015.
What Did GFA Tell ECFA?
Beginning in May 2015, the ECFA began talking to GFA leaders, some of whom are now defendants in this fraud case, about alleged violations of financial management policies. In contrast to the evidence presented in the February 16, 2018 hearing, GFA told ECFA representatives that GFA leaders in the U.S. had no control over the field partners in India.
From the ECFA letter to GFA:
During our review on June 3, ECFA staff raised questions regarding GFA’s oversight and control of funds sent to foreign field partners. GFA’s staff indicated that the foreign field partners are completely independent organizations and therefore GFA did not exercise any direct control over field partners. GFA staff also indicated that they did not have a foreign grant process in place to oversee the use of funds.
The ECFA letter specifically refers to the near $20-million transfer of cash. From the letter:
GFA’s financial statements do not appropriately report transactions with foreign partners. During our review on June 3, GFA staff indicated that funds transferred to GFA India were actually transferred to a number of related entities instead of the single entity reflected in the 2013 audited financial statements. Additionally, on August 24 we learned that GFA received a $19,778,613 donation from GFA India, which was classified as a related party elsewhere on the 2013 audited financial statements (also see #8 below). On August 27, GFA staff confirmed that this donation was neither disclosed in the footnotes of the 2013 financial statements as a related-party transaction nor to the GFA board of directors. This inconsistency within the financial statements and lack of disclosure to the GFA board of directors about a significant related-party transaction appears to violate ECFA Standards 2, 3, and 6. On July 20, ECFA was informed that GFA engaged a new audit firm and they are in the process of reviewing related-party transactions.
The ECFA report letter then pointed out the impropriety of moving funds from India which had been given originally as donations exclusively for mission work in Asia.
Use of funds restricted for the field for other purposes. On June 3, ECFA discussed GFA’s claim that 100 percent of field funds are sent and used in the field. GFA staff confirmed that this was accurate. On August 24, ECFA was informed that GFA India made a gift to GFA of $19,778,613 in 2013 to complete GFA’s new office. On August 27, GFA’s staff confirmed that the funds relating to this donation were originally received by GFA as gifts restricted for the field and GFA transferred to field partners to fulfill donor restrictions.
Two important issues are raised:
A. Reallocating gifts donated for field purposes and using them to pay for headquarters construction appears to be a violation of ECFA’s Standards 7.2. GFA staff stated in a recorded GFA staff meeting that you approached the field partner and explained that GFA could borrow the funds in the U.S., at less than desirable terms, for the headquarters construction. However, a gift from the field partner, in lieu of GFA borrowing the funds, would allow GFA to complete the new headquarters and thereby save interest. Therefore, GFA would be able to send more money to the field in future years. ECFA believes that the potential savings resulting from the GFA India gift is an inadequate basis to reallocate gifts donated for field purposes.
B. Reallocating gifts donated for field purposes contradicts GFA’s claim that 100 percent of funds are sent to the field. In fact, a significant amount of donations restricted for the field made a circuitous trip back to GFA and were used for the headquarters construction, as though they had never gone to the field. This appears to be a violation of Standard 7.1.
In a GFA staff meeting, GFA indicated the field partner took out a loan to cover the use of the $19,778,613 gift and GFA staff confirmed on August 27 that India-generated income was used to repay the loan. Our review of the board minutes did not indicate the GFA board had approved, or even been notified, of the $19,778,613 reallocation of donor-restricted gifts.
Now we learn from attorney Stanley that the funds may have simply been transferred by GFA leaders in the U.S. from GFA-India’s Royal Bank of Canada account. Was the office complex finished via a gift from GFA-India? Or did GFA defendants simply transfer $20-million of donor money from one account to another? In either case, plaintiffs attorney presented evidence to allege that GFA leaders had sufficient control to authorize the transfer of funds which were not subsequently spent as intended by donors.
Other Misrepresentations Revealed
There are other revelations in this transcript which I will detail in future posts. For now, I will conclude by repeating my advice to donors to read this document as well as the ECFA report. Some of the same issues which led to the removal of GFA from the ECFA membership are still current today and have come to the attention of the presiding federal judge in this case. Although the trial isn’t slated until next year, consumers and donors can use the evidence available to make their own judgments now.