The Starr Foundation Announces its Independent Committee Has Concluded Investigation

Posted on March 5, 2007

Report Vindicates Greenberg and Other Executors of Cornelius Vander Starr Estate

New York, NY — In its lengthy report issued today, the Independent Committee concludes that the Executors “acted in good faith and prudently performed their duties, and that there is no basis for the AG Report’s contention to the contrary.”

The Independent Committee was formed to address inquiries made by former New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into whether the executors had disadvantaged The Starr Foundation, Mr. Starr’s residual beneficiary, in their handling of Mr. Starr’s estate. The transactions that the Attorney General questioned took place more than 30 years ago, and were approved by the New York Surrogate’s Court in judicial accounting proceedings in which the Attorney General’s Office participated. Those proceedings were completed in 1979. Nevertheless, the Board of Directors of the Foundation gave the Independent Committee full and complete power to conduct its investigation and pursue any actions on behalf of the Foundation that the Independent Committee concluded were necessary or appropriate.

The Starr Foundation is pleased that after a thorough investigation and a painstaking review of all of the facts and circumstances, independent parties have confirmed that Mr. Starr’s estate was settled in accordance with all applicable legal requirements and Mr. Starr’s wishes, and that the stewardship of The Starr Foundation is, and has been, an outstanding example of charitable intent realized.

The Starr Foundation, established by Mr. Starr in 1955, makes grants in the areas of medicine and healthcare, education, human needs, culture, international relations, and the environment.

Following Mr. Starr’s death at the end of 1968, the assets of the Foundation were less than $1.2 million. Under the stewardship of Mr. Greenberg and the other executors, the Foundation has grown to $3.3 billion, even after contributing more than $2 billion to charitable endeavors, including more than $1 billion in New York alone. The Starr Foundation today is one of the largest and most successful private foundations in the world.

The Starr Foundation runs one of the tightest and leanest operations of all of the large private foundations in the country, in keeping with Mr. Greenberg’s belief that Mr. Starr wanted his money to go to charity, not to overhead. The Foundation’s administrative expenses in the nine years prior to the commencement of this investigation ranged from 1% to 3% of grants paid, an extraordinary record.

In the past two years, the Foundation has made more than $650 million in grant commitments and payments of more than $360 million. Among the Foundation’s grants were:

  • $100 million to a consortium of five medical research institutions (four located in New York) to collaborate on cures for cancer; $50 million to a consortium of three New York research institutions for stem cell research; and $50 million to Rockefeller University to create a new cross-disciplinary research center. This is in addition to the more than $235 million donated to New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Medical College of Cornell University over the history of the Foundation.
  • $25 million to the Harlem Children’s Zone to expand its services to reach more disadvantaged children in central Harlem.
  • $10 million to Cooper Union to expand its programs to educate engineers and pay for scholarships for engineering students.
  • $13 million to America’s Second Harvest for its New York City Food Initiative, in partnership with the Food Bank of New York City and City Harvest, a program designed to increase the capacity of local soup kitchens and emergency food pantries. In addition, the Foundation provided $750,000 to Citymeals-on-Wheels to feed the homebound elderly.
  • More than $35 million to Lincoln Center and its constituent organizations.
  • $6 million to Baruch College (CUNY) to provide scholarships to needy students and build a career counseling center.
  • More than $1.4 million to the Primary Care Development Corporation to support the expansion of primary care medical clinics in medically underserved New York City neighborhoods.
  • $3.7 million to the New York Botanical Garden to continue the Foundation’s support for the Garden’s digitization of all of its plant specimen collections.

The Foundation is grateful for the time and effort of the retired judges who served on the Independent Committee:

The Honorable C. Raymond Radigan served as Surrogate of Nassau County for 20 years. Judge Radigan, an expert on the laws governing trusts and estates in New York, chaired the Advisory Committee to the New York State Legislature on revising New York’s trusts and estates laws. He teaches at the law schools at both Hofstra University and St. John’s University, lectures extensively at other law schools and bar associations, and is counsel to the law firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, P.C. in Uniondale, NY. Judge Radigan is the former chair of the Executive Committee of the Surrogates Association and a former delegate in the House of Delegates of the New York State Bar Association.

The Honorable William C. Thompson, a decorated veteran of World War II, served as an Associate Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York for 20 years, after service in the New York State Senate and the New York City Council. Justice Thompson was a member of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct from 1990 to 1998. Justice Thompson, along with the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was one of the founders of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. He is one of the original directors of Bedford Stuyvesant Youth-in-Action and a former Regional Director of the NAACP. In 2004, Justice Thompson was appointed by Justice Leland DeGrasse to a panel of three distinguished masters in connection with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity litigation.

Counsel to the Independent Committee were John J. Barnosky, Esq. , a partner in the law firm of Farrell Fritz, P.C., and Lawrence J. Zweifach, Esq. , a partner in the law firm of Heller Ehrman LLP.