Was Gospel for Asia Vindicated by the RICO Settlement?

Reading the Gospel for Asia press release about the settlement of Murphy v. GFA (RICO lawsuit), one might think GFA came away vindicated. In the settlement document, GFA proclaimed their innocence and both parties agreed that all funds given by donors “to the field” went “to the field.”

Read the Murphy v. GFA Settlement

However, GFA still isn’t being transparent with the public on multiple counts. The “field” is a big place and just because funds get to Asia doesn’t mean they were spent as designated by donors. In the course of discovery, we learned that GFA interprets “the field” as being the banks where funds are deposited after they leave GFA in Texas. Yes, funds were sent to “the field” but that doesn’t mean donor intent was honored once those funds left Wills Point, TX. The plaintiffs did not stipulate to that, nor did the settlement document attest to that.

In the past, I have provided evidence that GFA has collected funds to send to Asia but used them for purposes other than intended by donors.  A tax court in India also asserted the same thing. Then, there is the matter of $20-million which came back from Asia to help finance the Texas headquarters. Donors did not give $20-million to finance a compound in Wills Point, but at least some of those funds first went to the field before they came back to Texas for purposes other than what donors intended.

Furthermore, GFA still isn’t being transparent with donors about the charity registration situation in India. GFA and Believers Church in India lost their registration status in India and cannot directly take foreign contributions. No doubt GFA is sending funds to shell organizations in India but this flaunts the law there. I and others have repeatedly asked GFA how Bridge of Hope and flood relief funds are getting to Indian recipients, but they have given false answers. If GFA is actually going to try to get membership again in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, the organizational leaders will have to be accountable to the public.

Although most of the GFA board remains intact, Garland Murphy and one more outsider will join the board soon. In addition, a subcommittee of the board –which does not include Yohannan or his son — will report to the federal judge for three years. All of this should make the board more transparent. When GFA will not answer questions or provide answers, I know two board members who will have no incentive to keep any secrets.

More than transparency, I hope the board becomes independent. The board will be required to learn about fiduciary responsibility and act accordingly. Given the precarious place K.P. Yohannan has taken GFA in recent years (loss of ECFA and NRB memberships, loss of recognition with federal government’s giving campaign, RICO lawsuit, etc.), I have to believe any reasonable board would have to look at his status as CEO. The track record isn’t good. Perhaps it is time for the board to act in the interest of GFA.

In short, GFA lives on but has not yet been vindicated.

Gospel for Asia Settles RICO Lawsuit; Agrees to $37-Million Settlement

In court documents filed today, Gospel for Asia settled with plaintiffs Garland and Phyllis Murphy by agreeing to set aside $37-million in a Settlement Fund to provide relief for donors as well as cover court costs and attorneys’ fees. GFA also agreed to have Dr. Murphy join the board of the organization. Murphy and GFA will also work together to designate a replacement for K.P. Yohannan’s wife who will go off of the GFA board. GFA also agreed not to appoint any other relative of Yohannan to the board.

GFA also agreed to create a board subcommittee which shall not include Yohannan in order to provide oversight for the organization’s compliance with the settlement. The mission organization also agreed to comply with Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability guidelines and seek readmission to membership.

Read the Settlement 

GFA continued to deny wrongdoing but nonetheless agreed to establish a stunning settlement fund of $37-million.  GFA will raise the $37-million as follows:

GFA-USA will fund the Settlement Fund as follows: (a) within thirty (30) Days following entry of the Preliminary Approval Order, GFA-USA will transfer $26,000,000 to the Settlement Administrator (via wire instructions provided by the Settlement Administrator to GFA-USA) to an interest-bearing escrow account; and (b) GFA-USA will raise $11,000,000 within twelve (12) months of the date of the entry of the Final Approval Order, which will be transferred to the Settlement Administrator (via wire instructions provided by the Settlement Administrator to GFA-USA) to an interest-bearing escrow account, on or before the end of the twelfth month after the Agreement is executed.

GFA Headquarters Will Be Held as Security

GFA may try to raise funds to pay donors via new donors. In order to make sure the funds are paid to the class members, the headquarters will be held in a deed of trust. GFA has to come up with the money since the main campus is on the line. From the settlement:

To the extent the funds to be raised under Section 4.2.2(b) are raised through donations, they shall be raised through solicitations for general ministry purposes. To secure the obligation of GFA-USA to fund the additional $11,000,000 to the Settlement Administrator, GFA-USA shall grant a deed of trust lien for the benefit of the Settlement Administrator against the GFA-USA campus, such deed of trust to be in the form attached hereto as Exhibit G (the “Deed of Trust”). At such time as the $11,000,000 is transferred to the Settlement Administrator pursuant to Section 4.2.2(c), the Deed of Trust shall be released.

This is a stunning outcome and should be a warning to all nonprofit organizations, especially megachurches. Donors are watching and want to know where those funds are going. GFA is spinning this already on their website but this is a staggering blow to an organization and group of defendants which once bragged that they were above reproach.

I will have more coverage of the settlement over the next few days.