Putting the 'profit' in non-profit?
(Updated Aug 2023) On August 17, 2023, the news broke that Ron Forman was going to retire from his lucrative position at the helm of the "non-profit" Audubon Nature Institute. Since he was paid a whopping $4,695,767 in compensation in 2021, perhaps retirement finally looked affordable?

Sadly, while Ron Forman's salary never wavered from its ever-rising trajectory, the rest of the employees of the Audubon Nature Institute haven't fared so well.

ANI's 2019 tax forms show 1384 employees, a peak for the organization, with "salaries, other compensation, employee benefits" totaling $30,471,144. But in 2020, the employee numbers had dropped to 966, and the "salaries, etc" number had dropped to $19,905,721. In 2021, the employee numbers had dropped yet again, to 659, although "salaries, etc" only dropped to $19,555,203—largely because "compensation of key employees" had gone up—surprise!—by Ron's $4+ million extra compensation, even though the "other salaries and wages" of the ordinary employees decreased by the same amount, to a low of only $10.5 million.

About Forman's excessive compensation, the 2021 ANI Form 990 dutifully states: "Audubon Nature Institute, Inc. has a discretionary 457 Executive Retirement Plan for one of its officers, President and CEO L. Ronald Forman. The plan provides additional compensation based on years of service and estimated pay at retirement. The assets of this plan are owned by Audubon Nature Institute. The plan was developed in 2004 as a best-practices strategy to retain seasoned professionals in senior leadership positions. During 2021, Ron Forman received a contribution of $142,081 to his 457 retirement plan. With the approval of the Audubon Nature Institute Board Compensation Committee, Mr. Forman received $3,913,194 in distributions from the 457 plan. The Committee accelerated the vesting requirement for a portion of the deferred compensation based on Mr. Forman's forty-eight years of service, the uncertain economic environment, and the desire to remove deferred amounts from the Institute's books. The payout represents 96% of Mr. Forman's deferred compensation, with the remaining 4% to be paid out at the end of his contract term. The distribution was properly reported on his 2021 W-2."

As CEO of the “private non-profit” Audubon Nature Institute, Ron Forman has always been paid far more than any comparable colleagues by a relentlessly wide margin. Consequently, we continue to be as surprised about this situation in 2023 as we were in 2002, when we first began to report it.

Ron Forman also receives his very substantial compensation—especially for a “non-profit” CEO—even when the organization he runs is struggling financially; even if he's actually spending his time doing something else; and even if the ANI has publicly stated that he has received a pay cut!

The ANI’s 2020 tax return confirms yet another false claim of a mythical Ron Forman pay cut—the third, by our count. On April 28, 2020, the ANI published a press release that stated: “While Audubon’s doors are closed to the public, dedicated staff are still onsite each day caring for the animals, which cost nearly $70,000 to feed each month. Unfortunately, because of the financial impacts of COVID-19, Audubon has reduced full-time staff by nearly 50 percent and reduced the salaries of some full-time employees by 25 percent. The salary reduction includes Audubon's executive team and CEO and President Ron Forman has taken a 50 percent pay cut.” (See newsroom.audubonnatureinstitute.org/audubon-nature-institute-projecting-to-lose-21-million--during-covid-19-closure)

However, Forman’s reported 2020 salary on the ANI’s 2020 tax return was $569,038 (plus $181,837 in other compensation, for a total compensation of $750,875), an increase from his 2019 salary of $563,453!

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