The CEO of Silicon Valley's biggest charitable foundation has resigned over allegations of a 'toxic' culture

  • Silicon Valley’s billionaires and big tech corporations love to donate to a charitable foundation called the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
  • On Wednesday the organisation announced that its CEO, Emmett Carson, is out after an independent investigation into the company’s “toxic culture.”

Emmett Carson, the CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, is out after an independent investigation found “credible” evidence that the organisation had a “toxic” work environment, the organisation announced on Wednesday – the same day it released the investigator’s report.

Those allegations included “racial and sexual comments, and other inappropriate comments and workplace behaviour (such as berating and bullying),” the report says.

The investigation was undertaken after The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Marc Gunther published a detailed report in April alleging that the foundation’s top fundraiser, Mari Ellen Loijens, engaged in emotionally abusive and sexually inappropriate behaviour. It also reported allegations that Carson turned a blind eye to Loijens’ transgressions.

The day after the article published, Loijens resigned, and Carson was put on administrative leave while this investigation took place. Further news reports about the organisation followed.

SVCF bills itself as the world’s largest community foundation and manages over $US13.5 billion in donations, as of December 2017,it says.

SVCF is popular with the billionaires of Silicon Valley because SVCF isn’t a traditional charity. Donors can use it to set up “donor-advised funds,” which lets them dump big sums of money into the foundation, claim the tax write-off immediately, and then later dispense charitable grants when and as they wish. While that money is waiting to be donated, it can be invested, tax free, according to Fidelity.

Consequently, the SVCF has attracted a long list of big name donors including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, GoPro founders Nicholas and Jill Woodman and companies like Cisco.

Not every billionaire has loved SVCF. Back in 2014, when Zuckerberg first announced his $US1 billion+ gift to charity, long-time philanthropist Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff criticised it. “Silicon Valley Community Foundation is a bunch of DAFs: donor-advised funds. You give your money to SVCF and you get your tax write-off for the year, but [the foundation] has no obligation to administer that money,” Benioff said.

It’s worth noting that the while the investigators did seem substantiate allegations concerning SVCF’s culture, they found no evidence of “financial misconduct,” the report said.

SVCF appointed Greg Avis as its interim CEO when Carson went on leave in the spring. Avis is a founder of venture firm Summit Partners. Avis has already hired a workplace consultant to work on SVCF’s culture, the foundation says.

We reached out to SVCF for comment and will update if we hear back.

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