Trust is a fundamental component to any relationship, including between an account holder and a financial institution.
Yet, as Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Senior Vice President for Corporate Engagement Jeremy Tedesco writes at RealClearMarkets.com, a pattern of activity from Fidelity Charitable has called into question whether its customers can take the financial giant at its word.
Tedesco, who leads the Viewpoint Diversity Score initiative, writes that Fidelity Charitable is appearing to cave to activist pressure to block donor advised fund account holders from giving to the charity of their choice on political and ideological grounds, and at the best of fringe activist groups.
Left-wing groups like the Amalgamated Foundation and “Unmasking Fidelity” are demanding that donor-advised funds disclose who is giving to their political opponents in an effort to stop donations to them.
“Unmasking Fidelity,” for example, demanded that Fidelity Charitable publicly disclose five years’ worth of contributions to 10 targeted organizations with whom the activists disagree on a variety of hot-button issues. They are also demanding that Fidelity Charitable impose a litmus test that would screen out certain charities as anonymous giving options. Of course, this litmus test would only target conservative and religious groups.
As Tedesco highlights, “over a dozen donors in 12 different states have told ADF” that Fidelity Charitable has either blocked their gifts to a list of conservative groups including ADF or placed additional burdens and conditions such as forced surrender of their anonymity in order to process their gifts.
Fidelity Charitable’s actions contradict its own promise to remain “cause neutral” in approving grant requests. That’s certainly unethical, and it could violate existing state laws that bar misrepresentations in charitable solicitations.
One account holder, Dawn Manning, recently filed a consumer complaint with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, urging his office to open an investigation into the matter. As she writes in her complaint, Manning’s gifts to ADF, Family Research Council, Center for Security Policy, and Pacific Justice Institute were all held up by Fidelity Charitable, while parallel test requests to give to ideologically left groups including Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal Defense were all processed within the business day.
As Tedesco concludes the piece:
This problem isn’t confined to Louisiana, though… [O]ther states have begun taking action already. Earlier this summer, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody publicly demanded that Fidelity Charitable comply with a newly enacted state law prohibiting financial institutions from denying services based on religious beliefs.
Fidelity Charitable operates in all 50 states, with more than 300,000 donors counting on the financial giant to keep its cause-neutrality promise. It’s time for Fidelity Charitable to reaffirm that commitment and publicly disavow efforts like those of “Unmasking Fidelity” to limit the giving choices of its own customers.
Read the article in full here.