Your voices and your comments played a critical role in stopping this merger - THANK YOU!
I wish I could tell you the crisis is over but Smile Train still needs our help.
Here's the latest news:
Chairman Wang did not rehire the senior managers he fired on Valentine's Day. Instead, he placed his friend who does not have experience in the non-profit industry on the payroll as COO.
The emails of Smile Train employees and directors are being monitored and read by Chairman Wang's personal employees.
Chairman Wang announced the cancellation of the merger and the appointment of a new management team before the Smile Train Board even met! How would he have known these things without a vote from the board? The answer is simple: The Smile Train board is controlled by Wang and 4 of his employees, including: his personal secretary, personal lawyer, personal accountant and his CFO.
A senior employee at Smile Train who is "disgusted" with how the charity has been taken over, leaked documents to the New York Times (NY Times) so you can now read for yourself how Wang was trying to control $100 million of donated funds with the proposed merger. (Documents are posted on the left side of the article under the "Related" heading).
Please support us in our efforts of respectfully requesting the New York State Attorney General investigate the legitimacy of Charles Wang and his employees. They have made it clear they are not acting in the best interest of Smile Train, the donors, employees, partners, doctors, and most of all the patients. Our goal is to restore the charity to its original luster with a new board who will govern appropriately. Please sign and leave your comments today for the Smile Train you know and love, they will be delivered directly to the New York State Attorney General.
Original Post: Letter from the Medical Advisory Board below.
Dear Fellow Smile Train supporters,
Our Smile Train needs our help.
Over the past few months, without the knowledge or approval of the Smile Train Board, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Charles Wang, secretly negotiated a deal that will ensure Smile Train, as we know it, will cease to exist.
Wang shocked the Smile Train Board and staff members two weeks ago announcing his intent to merge with Operation Smile with little information or explanation.
Requests by board members for more information were ignored or dismissed; and repeated requests for more time were met with a rushed board vote on Valentine's Day.
Every merger of a charity in New York requires the approval of the New York State Attorney General. When he sees that all the votes were from one man and his employees, the AG is going to be concerned.
We want him to ask why Smile Train, a well-run, highly respected, successful organization would want to give fifty million dollars of donated money to another organization and disband the board responsible for overseeing how those funds should be spent.
We ask him to see the questionable motivation of an organization that would join with one it broke away from 12 years ago.
Most of all we need the AG to reject this merger in order to keep Smile Train, the Smile Train we know and respect, out of the hands of people who have an agenda other than helping provide children with a life they deserve. We must tell him how strongly we feel about how wrong this merger is.
Since the announcement of the merger, additional information has become available; here are the facts as I currently know them:
- Charles Wang and four of his employees voted for the merger.
- Wang's plan will give Operation Smile ALL of Smile Train's assets, programs and employees. Operation Smile will control both management and the board.
- Wang personally fired several members of the Smile Train senior management team including:
Executive Director, DeLois Greenwood
CFO, Hana Fuchs
Head of Donor Relations, Michele Sinesky
Special Assistant to the President, Karen Lazarus
- If this merger is allowed to happen, more than $100,000,000 of Smile Train donations - your donations - will go into a special fund that Wang will control.
- Op Smile will receive $50 million of Smile Train donations - your donations - to spend on whatever they want.
- The Smile Train board which has a fiduciary duty to oversee how these donations are spent is being eliminated and all of its directors dismissed except for Wang's employees who will get seats on the new board.
- Wang will be given the title of Co-Founder of the new organization as well as Chairman Emeritus, so he will have little to do with the daily functioning of the new organization, turning control and decisions of all matters to the executives of Operation Smile.
- Smile Train Boards around the world have held emergency meetings to vote: Smile Train Italy, Smile Train Netherlands, Smile Train UK, Smile Train Canada all voted unanimously against the merger. Smile Train's Medical Advisory Board met and also voted UNANIMOUSLY against this merger.
- The Smile Train name, logo and organization will disappear forever.
- Op Smile has many employees (115) that provide few surgeries (16,000 a year). Smile Train has few employees (44) that provide many surgeries (127,000 a year).
- Op Smile has declined over $9,000,000 in grants from Smile Train over the past 5 years, stating the two organizations "have different operating philosophies and business ethics." Norfolk Pilot, December 20, 2009
In addition to the immoral and unethical way this secret deal was handled, the inappropriate distribution of Smile Train funds, and the way the board vote was rushed through over the concerns of all independent directors, here are a few more reasons why this merger is such a bad idea.
- Smile Train used to be part of Operation Smile. Brian Mullaney, Co-Founder of Smile Train, quit the mission-style group 12 years ago to pioneer an alternative strategy to helping children in developing countries: empowering local doctors.
- The two organizations have completely different business models, principles and values. This is not a merger of equals. It is the acquisition of a much larger, more productive, cost-efficient, technology-driven and successful charity (Smile Train) by a much older, smaller, less-effective and less productive charity (Op Smile).
- Smile Train is focused on a single problem: clefts. Operation Smile's programs encompass more than just clefts, including, but not limited to: disaster relief, dental care, and burns. To address this: the "new" organization has stated it will continue to operate on clefts and "related issues."
- Smile Train has set the absolute highest standards for safety and quality in the cleft world. Operation Smile has had a troubled history. The New York Times has accused them of "shoddy medical care", "assembly line surgery" and "preventable" patient deaths. ( http://www.nytimes.com/) Board members were refused access to the patient safety and sentinel event records for Op Smile.
- Smile Train prides itself on having extremely low overhead and small staff. In contrast, Operation Smile has twice as many employees (even though they produce 90% less surgeries) and very high overhead. They are currently planning to build a $22 million headquarters in Virginia Beach, due to be complete in 2012.
- By far the most important reason to oppose this merger is because if it is allowed to happen, and Smile Train "ceases to exist," this will ultimately impact the children and their beautiful smiles. We have no way of knowing how many smiles will be unrepaired: tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands? Even one is too many.
We can NOT let this tragedy happen.
Here is how you can help.
- Please give us permission to use your name on the attached petition to Save Our Smile Train. We hope to get thousands of donors and stakeholders.
- Please send an email expressing your concern for the merger directly to the AG's office: email@example.com and include a cc to: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have your email printed and personally delivered to the AG by Smile Train Board members, it will only take a few seconds but it will have a big impact.
- Please forward this email and share this link with anyone and everyone interested in supporting Smile Train, post it on your Facebook wall, twitter, blogs, discussion boards, etc.
We have one chance to save Smile Train from this horrible fate.
Please sign the petition today.
Letter from the Smile Train Medical Advisory Board
NY Attorney General
Re the proposed merger of Smile Train with Operation Smile
We, the members of the Medical Advisory Board of Smile Train, are committed to its principle of improving care for patients with cleft lip and palate around the world by empowering and supporting local surgeons and their teams. We provide funding for further and continuing education and improvement of hospital facilities.
Smile Train was established as a reaction against existing cleft organizations which funded missions allowing teams of western clinicians to operate on children in poor countries.
As members of the Medical Advisory Board we have visited many parts of the world and we have seen how the care of cleft lip and palate children has increased and improved as a result of Smile Train support. Anesthesiologists, orthodontists, speech pathologists and other specialists have also benefitted from Smile Train support. More than 500,000 patients have had surgery, multidisciplinary teams have been set up, facilities have been established and the quality of care has vastly improved. Many conferences in India, China and elsewhere have helped raise standards. Through our extensive quality assurance program which entails the evaluations of mandatory photographic records which Smile Train partners send to the New York office of Smile Train, we have documented how the quality of surgery has improved.
While Operation Smile has done good work its basic philosophy is fundamentally and radically different from that of Smile Train. Its emphasis is on missions. To quote from the Operation Smile website - "As a cleft palate foundation, our international medical missions consist of a team of credentialed medical professionals from around the world who travel to an Operation Smile partner country to treat children through a two week period." Contrast this with the first page of the Smile Train website which states "Teach a man to fish: we empower local doctors in developing countries."
We do not believe that these two organizations with their very different philosophies can effectively work together. Furthermore, we believe that it is immoral (and perhaps illegal?) for Smile Train funds, provided by donors who believed that, by donating, they were supporting and empowering doctors in poor countries to treat patients, can be transferred without their knowledge or permission to an entirely different organization..
We, the undersigned members of the Medical Advisory Board of Smile Train, vehemently oppose this merger which, we believe will be detrimental to the present and future care of children with cleft lip and palate worldwide and we urge you to reject it.
Ian T. Jackson MD.DSc.,(Hon)FRCS,FACS,FRACS(Hon)
Affiliated with Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan
Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board, Smile Train
Member since 1999
Some additional information you might find interesting.
ABOUT THE MERGER
New York Times Article: Opposition Arises to Charities Merger http://tinyurl.com/4l6wzgj
We, the undersigned, write to respectfully request that you reject the merger of Smile Train and Operation Smile and remove Charles Wang from the board.
As American consumers, donors and philanthropists, we know a bad deal when we see one, and we feel Charles Wang, Co-Founder of Smile Train is not acting in good faith with his proposed plan to merge Smile Train with Operation Smile. Donating to American based organizations we trust that our money is being used as promised. Allowing this merger will lead to a violation of Donor Intent, subsequent bad faith mergers, and an increased lack of trust by American donors; not to mention the potential and likelihood children around the world will not receive the surgery, smile and life they deserve.
We ask you to question why Smile Train, a well-run, highly respected, successful organization would want to give fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) of donated money to another organization and disband the board responsible for overseeing how those funds should be spent. We ask you to find out why not one independent board member voted for this merger. We ask you to question Charles Wang's motives for creating a fund containing one hundred million dollars ($100,000,000.00) of donated money that he would control. We ask you to see the flawed motivation of an organization that would join with one it broke away from 12 years ago. But most of all, we ask you to reject this merger in order to keep Smile Train, the Smile Train we know and respect, out of the hands of people who have an agenda other than helping provide children with a life they deserve. Please stop this merger.
Keep up the great work. Look what you've accomplished!
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