More than 150 Christian organizations have joined United Response to New Era (URNE), an effort coordinated by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to make the best out of the nightmarish circumstances resulting from the collapse of the Pennsylvania-based Foundation for New Era Philanthropy (CT, June 19, 1995, p. 40).

Hundreds of Christian nonprofits and other charitable groups had placed money with New Era based on its guarantee to double funds in less than a year. Instead, New Era filed for bankruptcy May 15 amid allegations of fraud against chief administrator John G. Bennett, Jr.

According to investigators examining New Era's records, Bennett dispensed $240 million within the past year. More than $20 million of that was given away, unsolicited, to organizations that had not placed money with New Era, such as Harvard University and Planned Parenthood.

Of the 153 organizations associated with URNE at press time, 57 had received more money from New Era when it collapsed than they had contributed. An additional 61 had lost money. Some of the remaining 35 broke even or did not disclose their financial status. Also among the 153 is a handful of organizations that have stepped forward to help, even though they were not involved with New Era.

AVOIDING LITIGATION: The debacle has placed Christian organizations in the awkward position of considering legal action against other Christian groups to recover lost funds. ECFA executive director Paul D. Nelson says a chief goal of URNE is "to reach a voluntary agreement outside of litigation" regarding a fair redistribution of money.

Any redistribution, however, will not take place soon, according to Nelson. "The first step," he says, "is to wait and see what actions ...

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