McDermott recently launched the second episode of its special edition podcast providing an in-depth discussion of the interplay between State Attorneys General enforcement authority and nonprofit Board of Directors responsibility in the governance and operation of health systems. This special edition of the Governing Health podcast series welcomed four prominent State Attorneys General (AGs) to discuss the transformation of the nonprofit health care sector.
In episode two, our panelists discussed how the evolution of nonprofit health care affects business activities, including M&A, Board of Directors obligations, and state nonprofit law across the health care landscape. Here are four key takeaways:
- Beware the dangers of “mission drift.” Mission drift occurs when a change in corporate purpose conflicts with donor intent. As large health care organizations increasingly take on all aspects of health care, they often acquire nonprofit facilities endowed with gift assets. Health systems must consider how the original donor intended for those assets to be used in the community, said Karen Gano, President of the National Association of State Charity Officials and Assistant Attorney General of Connecticut, Special Litigation Unit.
- Keep beneficiary interests front-and-center when considering a sale or a conversion to a for-profit business model. In New York, there is a statutory requirement that any sale of charitable assets must be for fair consideration and in the best interests of charitable beneficiaries, said Jim Sheehan, Chief of the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau. Even if a transaction makes good business sense for the organization, Boards must ask themselves, what provisions are we making for the community served, and how does this transaction serve the nonprofit’s underlying mission? “We don’t have the authority to substitute our judgment for that of the Board, but we are obliged to ensure that the board has exercised its fiduciary duties of both loyalty and care in arriving at the decision to sell or convert,” said Mark Pacella, Chief Deputy Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section.
- Retain control when engaging in a joint venture with a for-profit entity. The state AG office will examine joint ventures—whether they involve new programs or services, or the construction of a new facility—to ensure there is actual control with an emphasis on care and no excess benefits to any individual or to the for-profit partner, said Bob Carlson, Assistant Attorney General of Missouri.
- Ensure that investment in innovative activities is objective. If the investor is the entity itself or its executives, the investment process can become politicized. “One the expectations we have is that there be a very rigorous process for assessing both initial investments and whether additional money is put in the same way [as it would be in] any other investment,” Jim said.
Coming Soon: Episode Three
In the final episode of this special three-part podcast series, our guests will discuss how operating activities, fiduciary duties and the class of beneficiaries are affected by the transformation of nonprofit health care.