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UNMASKING FIDELITY

In February 2019,

it came to light that Fidelity Charitable, through their Donor-Advised Fund, approves financial support to groups that promote anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ+ views and practices. The Public Good Coalition finds this practice unacceptable, and demand that Fidelity Charitable follow the leadership of the over 80 impact-conscious corporations and foundations who have adopted a moral clause that filters out groups who are involved in organized bigotry and apply this policy immediately.

We need your help to make sure Fidelity Charitable adopt this policy. Will you sign our petition and show them that you denounce their support of organized bigotry, and support our demand to immediately implement a moral clause?

Dear Abigail Johnson,

We, the undersigned, are writing to voice our concern that Fidelity Charitable’s Donor-Advised Fund approves financial support to groups that promote anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ+ views and practices.  According to Fidelity’s policies, “virtually any IRS-qualified charity is eligible” to receive a donor-advised contribution. The Gift Fund’s most recent available Form 990 for the 2016–2017 tax year indicates that the Fund made grants totaling $3.1 million to 18 organizations that, groups with expertise in these fields and media outlets report, have vilified and targeted classes of people. 

This information was provided to Abigail Johnson on June 14th via certified mail, in a communication signed by community and labor organizations of the Public Good Coalition representing over 400,000 people in Massachusetts. She responded on June 25th with an email saying “Fidelity Charitable is cause-neutral,” and falling back on the legal definition of “charitable.” Our concern has never been if what you are doing is legal, but rather if it is moral and reflects the values of our Commonwealth. 

On September 13th, representatives from the Coalition met via Zoom with Nabil Ashour, Jacob Clauson, Steve Neff, and Catherine D’Amato, employees and trustees of Fidelity Charitable and Fidelity Investments.  Following this meeting, Fidelity Charitable (mail@fidelitycharitable.org) responded with the following: 

Fidelity Charitable’s mission is to grow and further philanthropy as donors seek to make the world a better place… As we hope you heard from our own stories during our meeting, we also care deeply about the issues you raise; however, our responsibility is to all of our donors and the broader nonprofit community. 

Does this mean that Fidelity Charitable’s stated value of helping making the world a better place aligns with DAFs recipient Gary Glenn, president of the Michigan chapter of American Family Association who said: “as with smoking, homosexual behavior’s ‘second hand’ effects threaten public health… . Thus, individuals who choose to engage in homosexual behavior threaten not only their own lives, but the lives of the general population?” Or perhaps Fidelity Charitable’s values are more in line with those espoused by DAF’s recipient David Horowitz who said “what has the Arab world contributed except terror? … No significant science, no significant arts and culture.” Or maybe Fidelity Charitable perceives the broader nonprofit community’s values to be aligned with groups that state: “Hispanics do specialize in rape, particularly of children. They’re very prone to it, compared to other groups,” as espoused by Peter Brimelow, whose notoriously White Nationalist organization VDARE received $17,600 through Fidelity Charitable?    

As people living and working in Massachusetts, we must again assert that funneling money from anonymous donors to groups known for their hateful and bigoted activities is unacceptable, and undermines the safety of our communities. 

The policy recommendation from the Public Good Coalition is based on this Amalgamated Foundation policy, which over 80 grant-giving organizations have signed on to. Yet Fidelity Charitable, the largest donor-advised fund in the country, refuses to follow suit and avoids accountability to “all of our donors and the broader nonprofit community.”  These donors include the members of Resource Generation, young people ages 18-35 across the country, who collectively control $1.9 billion dollars in assets as individuals and are connected to over $23 billion in family wealth, much of which is held in Fidelity accounts. The younger generation that Resource Generation represents is increasingly looking for values-aligned financial institutions to work with, and lack of action from Fidelity on this issue raises significant concerns for young investors and donors about working with Fidelity moving forward.

We support the Public Good Coalition’s demand that Fidelity Charitable follow the leadership of impact-conscious corporations and foundations who have adopted a moral clause that filters out groups who are involved in organized bigotry and apply this policy immediately. The coalition can be reached at christopher@massclu.org.

Abigail Johnson

Fidelity Investments

245 Summer Street

Boston, MA 02210

Dear Abigail Johnson,

 

We, members of the Public Good Coalition, are writing to voice our concern about Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund. In recent months, it has come to light that the Gift Fund has been used to provide financial support to groups that promote anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBTQ+ views and practices. According to Fidelity’s policies, “virtually any IRS-qualified charity is eligible” to receive a donor-advised contribution. I urge you, as CEO of Fidelity Investments, to discontinue any transmission of funds to groups whose statements or practices malign or attack entire classes of people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

The Gift Fund’s most recent available Form 990 for the 2016–2017 tax year indicates that the Fund made grants totaling $3.1 million to 18 organizations that groups with expertise in these fields and media outlets report have vilified and targeted classes of people. The Alliance Defending Freedom, identified by the Human Rights Campaign as “the largest anti-LGBT legal advocacy group in the nation,” received more than $600,000. The David Horowitz Freedom Center, widely known as a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and anti-Black movements, received $834,853. The notorious white nationalist VDARE Foundation received $17,600 from Fidelity Charitable. The statements and actions of these organizations endanger our families and neighbors, and threaten our core democratic values.

There is an important, evolving public policy debate over strengthening legislation and regulation of donor-advised funds. Financial services companies are developing policies to ensure that they do not transmit money to fund hateful activities. For instance, payment processors have acted to ensure that their platforms are not used as conduits to fund “hate groups.”

We appreciate that donor-advised funds such as the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund can support the public good; however, allowing these funds to act as conduits to support organized groups that promote bigotry does not. It is also unacceptable for Fidelity to earn money from such activities, either through management fees or investment products. Instead, policies and procedures that screen out hateful activities should become a standard part of charitable due diligence. At a time when we are experiencing growing divisions among many of our communities, we need corporations like Fidelity, that are based here in Massachusetts, to take a stand against hate and be a positive model for other businesses across the state and across the country.

We ask that Fidelity, the largest charity in the United States of America, embrace the true definition of the word charity, which is “goodwill toward…humanity”. We see nothing charitable in directing funds to groups whose prejudice and bigotry lead them to deny the rights and humanity of others, and we call on you to discontinue the practice of allowing Fidelity’s Gift Fund to transmit money to groups known for their hateful activities.

We respectfully request that a small delegation of the groups listed below meet with you to discuss this important issue and look forward to you reaching out to Christopher Zizzamia  of Community Labor United at christopher@massclu.org to schedule that meeting.  

The Public Good Coalition