Saturday, April 25, 2015


JFNA has not yet filed its Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for FY 2013-2014...but it has assured some at JFNA that it will do so "around April 30" and has sent around the 990 to some sort of "exclusive list" of recipients the 990 that it will be filing. Thanks to those of you who forwarded it on to me -- it won't surprise you that JFNA didn't do so. It discloses, of course, among other things, the ridiculous compensation that it pays its highest paid and a new and very questionable role for one highly paid consultant -- we'll get to all of that in a moment. But, first, please bear in mind that the data are already stale by almost  one year -- just the way that JFNA likes it. This is a document unworthy of a wrapping for dead fish.

Now...on to the farce:

  • Jerry "Even I Can't Believe What They're Paying Me" Silverman -- $724,000 (+/-). This makes Jerry the highest paid CEO in the federation system...and for what? Showing up, apparently, because there is nothing else to show for this egregious compensation, is there. That Silverman makes more than the CEOs in any federation you wish to examine would meet my definition of "excess compensation" (and, were the IRS to examine the disparity between compensation and deliverables, it would probably agree) -- how about yours? And, this, back in FY 2013-2014. Can't wait for the 2014-2015 990 that we will probably have a chance to see in 2017 or beyond.
  • Someone else on the payroll who ought to be asking herself "how did I luck into this job" is the estimable Senior V-P, Global B.S./Israel and Overseas, Becky Caspi. She earned was paid $341,000 in FY 2013-14. Just incredible. And, again, for what: building a silo in Jerusalem that housed 27 staff members in 2013-14 with no measurable accomplishments. Yes, Becky earned more than any CEO in our system outside of the Large Cities CEOs (and even more than some of those). 
  • And then there is one Deborah Smith, still the premier "consultant," on the payroll but with changed "responsibilities" -- now she is "in charge" of something called "Donor Management" to the tune of $272,000 in 2013-2014. What does she do for that compensation? Has anyone other than Silverman ever seen her? How many times did she prowl the hallways at 25 Broadway? What donors is she "managing?" Or with the name "Smith" is she just a "ghost payroller" like so many in municipal government? Does she come up to NYC from Naples Florida to pick up her checks? She remains a highly paid, highly valued mystery person.
These are three examples of how little attention the JFNA Compensation Committee pays to its responsibilities. In truth, there are many on this bloated payroll who are doing a great job and deserve to be paid more, while these three are so overcompensated as to make the JFNA compensation review "process," if there is one, as much a mockery as the rest of JFNA. It once again, as always, raises the question as to why the JFNA lay leadership just doesn't take its oversight responsibilities seriously. We have continuing serious fiduciary neglect by a group of leaders who know better...or should.

Friends, when you have a chance (and, ultimately, you will find this 990 on the JFNA website as well as on Guidestar) to review this thing, compare it to prior years and you will find, as I did, that JFNA treats the filing with a repetitive disdain -- other than the financials, the narrative sections are almost identical year-to-year. It's gibberish and nonsense.*

Yes, another year, another "read it and weep." As bad as the 990 is...and it's offers one more glimpse of JFNA as the Potemkin Village that it is. Nothing more than a facade for wasting precious donor dollars. 

I know -- wait 'til next year. Sure.


* It's long past time for the Internal Revenue Service to seriously examine the futility of the 990 itself. For example, by the time the data are published they are stale -- as in the case of JFNA more than one year old.


Anonymous said...

Aside from the outrageous salaries here's another fact that should raise eyebrows and even worse. If reported facts of only about $130 mil (or less) being transferred to JAFI, JDC and ORT in 2014 that makes the $30 mil budget of JFNA almost 25% and they can't even justify spending this on fundraising even if they claim it was used for this purpose.

Anonymous said...

Why act as if this is new? Go back and check the 990 when Steve Hoffman was heading up UJC, all while still the CEO of Cleveland's Federation.

Anonymous said...

Hoffman at least had earned his compensation in Cleveland and, arguably, while at JFNA after years of service in and understanding of the system he was asked to lead. Anyone who believes there is an apt comparison between Steve Hoffman's leadership at JFNA and/or Cleveland and Jerry Silverman's hasn't been paying attention.

Anonymous said...

That Silverman’s pay is so out of line with compensation paid to other communal professionals is a scandal. His failures as CEO compound the injustice. But Federation executive pay and perks pale in comparison to what leaders of academic institutions supported by the Jewish Community are receiving.

At Yeshiva University, Richard Joel commands over $1M in compensation (from Yeshiva and affiliates). He gets the big bucks for leading the University into deficit spending and raiding the endowment. At Brandeis University, Fred Lawrence also receives over $1M in compensation. Unlike Joel, Lawrence has been fired by his Board for his incompetence and mismanagement. But in return for his willingness to resign, the University gave him a $1.5M golden parachute. Perhaps we’re lucky that Silverman went to business school, not law school like his two academic counterparts. He might have learned how to develop an even more egregious compensation agreement.

As a donor to Federation and the two universities, there’s not much I can do save withholding my support. I wish that weren’t necessary. Where are the leaders motivated by communal, not self-interest? And where are board members willing to stand up to greedy executives and guide their organizations to sound, principled, management?

Anonymous said...

And the larger Jewish institutions, in turn, are taking their cues from the larger corporate world.

Where we learned, over the weekend, that GM's Mary Barra made in excess of $16 million in compensation during 2014 despite a record number of safety recalls during that year.

You'd think the Jewish community would set higher standards, but instead it looks to the "big boys" of their corporate world for how they are supposed to attract the best "talent".

Shame on all of us.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Richard, the JFNA 990 may show Ms. Smith as having something real important to do with something called "Donor Management" but that will come as a big surprise to the Search leaders in one Large Intermediate City where she is the assigned JFNA "Consultant" to the Search Committee. Maybe she is being paid by Mandel for her Search services on top of what Jerry has jana paying her for what?

Anonymous said...

To clear up any mystery, Ms. Smith does indeed exist. Met her when she first came on board maybe 7-9 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Concur with the Smith sighting. Saw her last week having a felafel with Elvis in Toledo.

Anonymous said...

Also sighted in Rochester NY where she is conducting that Search -- is this a boondoggle to get Smith back to a City where she worked for many years -- kind of "Jerry, let me have this assignment, old friends and lots of airplane miles -- just like you." Or, as others might call it -- a boondoggle.