Monday, January 10, 2005

WJC vice president resigns, WJC trying to dissuade NY AG Eliot Spitzer from expanding an inquiry of its finances into a full-blow investigation

3 Comments:

At 3:39 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1)
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=525413

Last Update: 10/01/2005 22:08
World Jewish Congress tries to head off Spitzer
By Reuters

The World Jewish Congress tightened controls over its budget on Monday, seeking to dissuade New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer from expanding an inquiry of its finances into a full-blown investigation.

The non-profit group, which collects money from hundreds of thousands of donors and receives major contributions from WJC President Edgar M. Bronfman, has led the fight for restitution of billions of dollars for Holocaust survivors from banks, corporations and countries.

But recently it has run into internal criticism that its own finances were not in order, along with accusations of high-handedness by its leaders.

Spitzer's office, which oversees non-profit groups, has been looking into those allegations.

The Congress's leaders strongly deny wrongdoing.

But at a plenary meeting of more than 200 representatives from countries worldwide it created a standing audit committee, established an annual audit and appointed a budget and finance commission.

"Everything has been kosher and now it will be seen to be kosher," said Matthew Bronfman, a member of the newly formed commission and the son of Edgar Bronfman.

Critics said it was a step in the right direction, but wanted more action.

"A public organization which purports to represent Jews all over the world cannot continue to operate at though it were a personal fiefdom," said Isi Leibler, an outgoing vice-president.

Leibler has demanded an independent audit and, among other things, questioned the transfer of $1.2 million from the organization's New York headquarters to a Swiss bank and the annual payment of $200,000 to a consultant.

Insufficient controls

The Congress has retained former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams, who acknowledged that financial matters could have been handled better in the past.

"There was sometimes insufficient attention given to administrative management and control," Abrams said in a recorded presentation to the group.

Abrams said he has personally talked to Spitzer's office and it has reached no conclusions yet about financial wrongdoing.

At the same time, the Congress chose Stephen Herbits to serve as secretary general. Herbits worked for Bronfman at Seagrams and also worked in the U.S. Defense Department, including a stint as chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970s.

Herbits released a 1,050-page report, answering specific allegations of mismanagement one by one. The report included documents to show that funds had been handled properly.

He said the report would be sent to Spitzer's office.

Herbits has also spoken to Leibler, but Leibler said the two were unable to reach an agreement.

2)
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=525423

Tue., January 11, 2005 Shvat 1, 5765
World Jewish Congress vice president Isi Leibler resigns

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz Correspondent

BRUSSELS - World Jewish Congress vice-president Isi Leibler announced his resignation from the organization Monday at the WJC's annual assembly in Brussels yesterday. Leibler said he made the announcement after coming to the conclusion that he had no chance of getting re-elected to the post.

Leibler's resignation marks the end of an ongoing, harsh dispute between the WJC vice-president and the chairman of the organization's board of trustees, Israel Singer, but will not of the issues that occasioned the dispute.

Leibler told Haaretz on Monday that he was resigning because he "came to the conclusion that I cannot remain in an organization that requires me to give a stamp of approval to activities I deem inappropriate, and after it became clear to me that I will not be re-elected to the position."

Leibler said that despite his resignation, "the organization will hear from me if they don't make good on their promise to rectify the manner in which it is run, which, as they also admit today, is inappropriate."

The conflict between Leibler and Singer revolves around the former's demand for an investigation into the transfer of $1.2 million from the organization's New York headquarters to a bank account in Geneva, and the subsequent transfer of the money by Singer into a trust account held by his friend, attorney Zvi Barak.

Leibler has rejected the results of three internal audits conducted by the organization, saying that they were not performed by professional accountants. He also rejected a fourth audit carried out by newly appointed WJC secretary-general Stephen Herbits, saying that Herbits is a close personal associate of WJC president Edgar Bronfman.

On Monday, the Congress was presented with Herbits's 1,050-page report clearing Singer of all the allegations that have been voiced against him in recent months. The report includes documents to show that WJC funds have been handled properly.

Herbits acknowledged, however, that reforms were needed to improve management and control at the nonprofit organization, which was set up to promote Jewish rights and has collected millions of dollars in restitution payments on behalf of Holocaust victims around the globe.

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger Shmarya said...

I don't know how all of this will turn out, but one thing is clear, especially if you read the Jerusalem Post report – LIEBLER WAS VOTED OUT OF OFFICE FIRST and 'resigned' from the WJC AFTER that election loss.

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1)
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1105327260859

Jan. 10, 2005 18:53
Bronfman, Singer re-elected to WJC; Leibler ousted
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
BRUSSELS

Leaders of the World Jewish Congress, the so-called parliament of the Diaspora, said they hoped that what they described as "baseless"
allegations of irregularities in its internal accounting have finally been laid to rest following a sometimes raucous plenary assembly here on Monday.

"We're going to have to take some time to repair," said the WJC's incoming Secretary-General Stephen Herbits. "But I think today's vote of confidence in the governing board will go a long way toward restoring any credibility that may have been damaged."

The organization's chief internal critic, outgoing Senior Vice President Isi Leibler, issued a call for further independent auditing of the WJC's finances, insisting that if such an audit showed "that millions and millions of dollars have been misused" it would be "time for a rethink."

But Herbits and several other leading WJC officials dismissed Leibler's allegations as
unfounded, which have focused on the transferring of funds between WJC accounts and severance pay of WJC officials. Herbits said that independent auditors were now collating the findings of audits from the past five years of eight WJC entities, and that there was no indication of any "attempt at embezzlement, money-laundering or any irregularities. This issue is closed."

Israel Singer, Chairman of the WJC's Governing Board and President Edgar Bronfman were re-elected unopposed.




2)
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1105327261430

Jan. 10, 2005 21:11 | Updated Jan. 10, 2005 21:26
WJC hopes row over finances finished
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
BRUSSELS

Leaders of the World Jewish Congress, the so-called parliament of the Diaspora, said they hoped that what they described as "baseless" allegations of irregularities in its internal accounting have finally been laid to rest following a sometimes raucous plenary assembly here on Monday.

"We're going to have to take some time to repair," said the WJC's incoming Secretary-General Stephen Herbits. "But I think today's vote of confidence in the governing board will go a long way toward restoring any credibility that may have been damaged."

The organization's chief internal critic, outgoing Senior Vice President Isi Leibler, issued a call for further independent auditing of the WJC's finances, insisting that if such an audit showed "that millions and millions of dollars have been misused" it would be "time for a rethink."

But Herbits and several other leading WJC officials dismissed as unfounded Leibler's allegations, which have focused on the transferring of funds between WJC accounts and severance pay of WJC officials. Herbits said that independent auditors were now collating the findings of audits from the past five years of eight WJC entities, and that there was no indication of any "attempt at embezzlement, money-laundering or any irregularities. This issue is closed."

The legal process and auditing, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and other firms, according to one speaker, have cost over $1 million.
Herbits and other WJC officials said they were committed to bringing full transparency and good governance to the WJC, which represents the communities and institutions of the Jewish people outside Israel in dealings with other organizations and governments.

Leibler, who said that he had not being given sufficient time to make the full address he had planned, later issued the text of his intended remarks. In them, he attacked the procedures by
which he said payments were made to Israel Singer, Chairman of the WJC's Governing Board, a lay role, and complained about a $1 million-plus termination payment to former Secretary-General Avi Beker.

An 850-page dossier that Herbits made available to all participants, stated that there were "no financial irregularities" regarding payments, and that the "false allegations" of misuse of funds "are clearly political and personal in nature." As for the "separation package" given Beker, the dossier says that it was "appropriate" given his "more than 20 years of experience in Israel and at the helm of the WJC, and the absence of any pension program or ex gratia payment for life."

In his public remarks at a plenary session that lasted four hours, Leibler rejected criticism, leveled frequently from the floor, that he had badly harmed the WJC and its efforts on behalf of world Jewry by taking his complaints to the Jewish and non-Jewish media. He said he had been "fighting for what I believe is right," asserting that everyone who had backed him had been demonized or thrown out of the WJC, and said that he "did try to deal with this internally." He denied being the first to go to the media.

Herbits countered that Leibler had "shamefully" taken the dispute "outside" the WJC family.

Avraham Burg, a former chairman of the Jewish Agency, said that Leibler's "story of money disappearing" was "bullshit." All such monies, which had originated in transparent payments by the Agency to the WJC, had been used openly and properly, Burg said. He added that the publicity given to Leibler's allegations had undermined "the moral foundation" of world Jewry's efforts to obtain Holocaust restitution. "The rug was pulled away," he said.

Aba Dunner, the executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, said the WJC had been "sullied and weakened in front of foreign governments" by Leibler. "We are destroying ourselves from within," he protested. "We are almost suicidal."

Many delegates were opposed to letting Leibler speak at all, and others urged their fellow delegates to leave when he spoke. Mendel Kaplan, chairman of the executive, who chaired the meeting, however, defended Leibler's right to speak, although not for "an endless" period.

Few people actually left the room when Leibler, who had tried to speak from the stage, began his statement from the floor. Leibler complained that two people who had previously worked for the WJC and supported his position were being barred from addressing the meeting. One speaker from the floor had earlier backed Leibler's stance, but the vast majority were critical of him, often bitterly so.

Alluding to an informal inquiry launched last month into WJC finances by the New York State attorney-general's office, and to changes in WJC management practices and accounting that had made it more transparent, Leibler said he was proud to have been the initiator of a process that would ensure proper governance of the organization. Herbits called this a misrepresentation, saying that the process of improved transparency was begun before Leibler went public and was not a consequence of his allegations.

In a statement delivered via video, former New York State attorney-general Robert Abrams, now a special counsel to the WJC, said that in the past the organization had sometimes given "insufficient attention" to "administrative management and control" and that "informality" rather than "tight, rigorous internal management" had characterized operations at WJC headquarters. He said the WJC was "eager" to work with the attorney-general's office and that he was "looking forward to working to make sure" that the WJC reached the necessary governance standards.

The dispute with Leibler dominated the lengthy proceedings, overshadowing reports on the WJC's activities by President Edgar Bronfman and Chairman of the Governing Board Singer, and another row over the lack of women and Israeli representatives on the proposed slate of vice presidents. An amended vice presidential slate is to be presented on Tuesday.

Bronfman and Singer were re-elected unopposed.

In his address, Singer outlined the WJC's work in securing restitution, fighting Holocaust denial, countering anti-Semitism, and more. He said WJC leaders would meet on Tuesday with European Commission President Durao Barroso in Strasbourg, and would ask him to set up effective frameworks to monitor and act against anti-Semitism in Europe.

The demand for "monitoring and enforcing" was what ultimately secured victory in the struggle for Soviet Jewry, Singer said, and "that's what's going to happen with anti-Semitism."

In a somewhat surprising use of "Palestine," Bronfman spoke of the "heartwarming elections in Palestine" on Sunday, praised Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan as "bold and smart," and said disengagement should be supported "without qualification."

Bronfman also called on NATO to offer Israel associate membership, saying this would bolster Israeli security and Middle East stability.

 

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