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Getty Trust gets back its nonprofit cred

Philanthropy group restores its membership after Museum reforms
/ Source: The Associated Press

The nation’s leading group of foundations and charitable organizations said it has restored the J. Paul Getty Trust’s full membership status after seeing “positive and significant” reforms at the beleaguered trust that oversees the Getty Museum.

The Council on Foundations placed the trust on probation in December for failing to provide adequate documentation for a review into its financial practices.

The council had been seeking trust documents since it began its inquiry in June, following a Los Angeles Times report that detailed lavish spending of funds by former chief executive Barry Munitz, who resigned in February.

The California attorney general is investigating Munitz’s spending to determine whether it jeopardizes the organization’s nonprofit status.

The council was also looking into a 2002 real estate transaction in which the trust sold a $2 million property to billionaire Eli Broad — a close friend of Munitz — for $700,000 less than its appraised value. By law, private foundations must get fair market value, and Getty executives maintained the sale was proper and denied Broad received any discount.

“We appreciate the cooperation and constructive dialogue between our organizations over the past few months and respect the hard work they’ve done to provide the information we requested,” council President Steve Gunderson said in a statement.

The council announced Monday that it had restored the trust’s full membership status.

Gunderson said the purpose of the council’s sanctions is to encourage its more than 2,000 nonprofit members to adhere to high standards of conduct.

“We have worked closely with the council to address its concerns, and we are confident the council’s decision was based on a belief that the measures we have taken to strengthen existing policies and implement new measures will set a high standard going forward,” said interim Getty chief executive Deborah Marrow.

The Getty Museum has been caught up in scandal as well. Former Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion True is on trial in Rome for allegedly conspiring with dealers to traffic in looted artifacts, and officials in Italy and Greece have identified dozens of works held by the Getty that they believe were looted.

In addition to the museum, the $7 billion trust oversees divisions of art conservation, research and philanthropy.