November 6, 2017
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a settlement between 24 states and VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation, resulting in the organization’s dissolution.
“This settlement rids the country of a veterans charity that deceived donors, helped very few veterans, and largely served to enrich its professional fundraisers. Sadly, deceptive veterans’ charities remain a problem. Donors should remain vigilant,” said Schuette. “I also commend my fellow Attorneys General for their cooperation in achieving this resolution, and their continuing cooperation as we work together to root out other bad actors from the charitable sector.”
In March 2017, Schuette alleged thousands of deceptive solicitation violations against VietNow for misrepresenting its charitable programs to donors in its fundraising calls. Based on Schuette’s allegations, Attorneys General in California, Illinois, and other states soon began their own investigations of VietNow. Schuette and the Attorneys General from Illinois, California, and Ohio led the negotiations resulting in the present settlement.
The settlement resolves the allegations and investigations by appointing a receiver to dissolve VietNow. The settlement also obtains injunctive relief against VietNow’s directors and officers and requires their cooperation in investigations of VietNow’s professional fundraisers. Upon dissolution, VietNow’s remaining funds will be paid to two national and well-respected veterans charities, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
Since March 2015, VietNow—which also uses the name VeteransNow—had been raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts. The scripts, which were used by professional fundraiser Corporations of Character, told potential Michigan donors that VietNow gave a minimum of 12 percent after expenses back to veterans in Michigan; other scripts stated that donations helped local veterans in Michigan. Similar scripts were used in other states. But in response to the Michigan Attorney General’s investigation, VietNow admitted that it had not funded any programs that assisted veterans in Michigan; nor did VietNow have local programs in most other states. Other VietNow scripts claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans, but again, VietNow’s response identified no such programs.
In its most recent financial statement, VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide. But most of this cash was paid to fundraisers, with less than 5% of funds raised going to its charitable programs, and even less directly assisting veterans.
Complaints regarding charitable solicitations may be filed through the Attorney General’s online complaint form, or by mailing the Charitable Trust Section at P.O. Box 30214, Lansing, MI 48909-7714, or by emailing the Charitable Trust Section.
To assist individuals in making wise decisions regarding which charitable donations to support, Attorney General Schuette established an online searchable database for charities. The Attorney General also publishes an annual professional fundraising charitable solicitation report. Through these resources, users have access to information to aid them in determining which charities are worth supporting—and which are not. The Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section is also available at 517-373-1152 to answer inquiries about a charity.