Arthur Andersen again promises $217 million—but will bilked investors really get it?
"Arthur Andersen's on-again, off-again $217 million settlement with investors in the Baptist Foundation of Arizona (BFA) scandal is on again," reports The Arizona Republic. On March 1, the accounting firm promised to pay the same $217 million to those hurt by the church-sponsored real estate Ponzi scheme, then backed out of it by the end of the month. Now, a week into a new trial, Andersen offered the figure again.
"This is the best deal possible for investors, and it's likely to get money in their pockets," said Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano.
But is it really? The Wall Street Journal doubts it. "The new settlement by no means assures that the 11,000 Baptist Foundation investors—who lost an estimated $570 million—will recoup significant portions of their losses," the paper reported yesterday (the article is available only to online subscribers).
The worst-case scenario for Baptist Foundation investors would be if Andersen were convicted this month in the criminal case [over its audits of Enron], then quickly filed for bankruptcy-court protection before ever injecting new capital into its technically insolvent Bermuda insurance carrier, which for the time being remains unable to pay or approve claims.
In that scenario, it would be difficult at best for plaintiffs in the Phoenix case to reach Andersen's assets or those of its Bermuda insurer to collect on the latest settlement pledge. However, with the Phoenix trial scheduled to last well into July, Baptist Foundation investors likely would have been in an even worse position from which to collect anything from Andersen if the civil trial proceeded and the firm filed for bankruptcy protection before the jury in the case reached a verdict.
It's a pretty good deal for Andersen. The settlement effectively ends the accounting firm's chapter in one of the largest fraud cases of its kind. "In addition to settling the case brought by the foundation's bankruptcy trust, the latest agreement would resolve a civil lawsuit brought by the Arizona attorney general's office, a separate class-action case filed by aggrieved foundation investors, and a state administrative proceeding by Arizona accountancy regulators," the Journal reports. Don Martin, one of Andersen's attorneys, tells the Republic, "Arthur Andersen was able to put all of the Baptist Foundation issues behind it, but I am frustrated we were not able to tell the rest of the story."
But the story isn't over for the investors. Settlement negotiations continue with the BFA's law firm, and the bankruptcy trust has yet to sell all of the BFA's assets.
Still, the duped investors are wary. "We felt good the first time," Ted Kelly, who had invested $300,000 in BFA, tells the Republic. "Considering their past history, you have to be a bit cautious. Hopefully, this time around, it will be better."
Where's Tom Bosley's Father Dowling when you need him?
Somebody buy the Catholic League a new fax machine; its current one is about to burn out. The watchdog organization has been surprisingly careful about accusing media of anti-Catholicism covering of the sexual abuse scandal. But now, reports The New York Times, the scandal is about to pour into fictional television, one of the Catholic League's favorite topics.
"Several [shows are] being considered for the fall season that deal with the Catholic Church and … seem to mirror the public mood, a disenchantment with the church hierarchy," reports the Times's Alessandra Stanley. The Calling, "a spiritual X Files" in the words of its creators, "portrays the higher clergy as jaded and ultimately irrelevant." The hero of the show is a seminarian who refuses to be ordained because his superiors don't believe in miracles. (Actually, this sounds like PAX's Mysterious Ways.) "The show deals with someone who is looking to renew his faith, but that does not mean he has to get it from a church," executive producer Roger Birnbaum, says, giving religious television critics oodles to write about.
Another show, pitched as "kind of Northern Exposure in a rectory" (gotta love "original" television), is CBS's Father Lefty. The New York Post says the show about a heroic priest, produced by Sylvester Stallone, is in trouble because of the current scandal, but the Times says it's just trying to incorporate pedophilia themes into its plotlines. And that's not all:
FX is exploring ways to make a movie about pedophilia and sexual abuse in the church. NBC could also end up weaving Catholicism into its comedy lineup. The pilot for an NBC television-newsroom farce includes a nun who lands a job as a weather forecaster because she is the cousin of the station manager. … The season finale of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit on May 17 will feature a murder linked to the diocese's cover-up of a top-ranking priest's pedophilia.
Well, we said we wanted more people of faith on TV shows … (By the way, does anyone know what happened to the King of the Hill spinoff that The Hollywood Reporter said was going to focus on vigilante priest Monsignor Martinez?)
Clergy abuse scandal:
- Father fixit | Since the scandal began, 177 priests have been removed from their posts. Who tends the flock? (Newsweek)
- Some see review of seminaries as reassuring; others call it unnecessary | Some worry review would oust homosexual seminarians (The New York Times)
- Protestant ministers face own sex scandals | Reports suggest that while most Catholic cases involve homosexual priests latching onto young boys, Protestant cases tend to be ministers preying on women. (The Washington Times)
- Extent of abuse in church not understood | Crucial data is still needed to understand the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. (Peter Steinfels, The New York Times)
- Can gays be good priests? | Catholic tradition holds that God can find good even in the most profound evil. (Douglas W. Kmiec, Los Angeles Times)
- The cardinals and bishops just don't get it | Abuse cover-up has been the source of personal reminiscence. (John D. Hough, The Seattle Times)
- Mission statement | Spiritual relief on video. (Rod Dreher, National Review Online)
- John Tesh expresses his Christian beliefs in new CD | It's the most overtly Christian record of the dozens he's released; he's better known for his light-pop, piano-based instrumental tunes. (Associated Press)
- Undue air time to TV preachers | All the major channels have sold hours of religious proselytizing to them. (Vanguard, Lagos)
Missions & Ministry:
- Fear torments captive U.S. missionary couple | Burnhams are struggling in pain, misery, Filipino witnesses say (The Dallas Morning News)
- Franklin Graham takes own approach to father's ministry | He's determined to be his own man—an evangelist who praises Christ, speaks his mind and doesn't worry about the fallout. (Charlotte Observer/Dallas Morning News)
- Bikers gather for Christian rally | More than 10,000 expected at Thunder Over Texas Motorcycle Rally (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
- Believers put faith in Christian health plan | Members pay a monthly fee and pledge to defray each other's medical bills (The Virginian-Pilot)
- Earlier: Bearing (some but not all) Burdens | Clean-living Christians create an unusual way to share medical expenses. (Christianity Today, Sept. 15, 2000)
- Parma church begins a restoration of faith | Bethany Lutheran Church has been the target of a $1.2 million arson, a $70,000 embezzlement, and an extortion threat that led to it being placed under police surveillance for several weeks (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- First Baptist plans $48 million project for downtown Dallas | Eight-story building would offer Christian bookstore, coffee bar, sports-themed snack bar, banquet hall, classrooms, office space, and a brightly lighted "prayer tower" (The Dallas Morning News)
- A communion in faith | Episcopalians, Lutherans celebrate ties (The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.)
- Seeking answers from science and faith about the final days of Earth | A review of John Polkinghorne's The God of Hope and the End of the World (Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times)
- Blessed are the complete idiots, for ... | Minister's book in popular 'Guide to' series that began with computer titles explains the life of Christ in simple terms for the theologically challenged. (Los Angeles Times)
- Ban lifted on 'homophobic' book | Film and Publications Board earlier said The Pink Agenda could only be sold to adults. (SAPA, South Africa)
- Preaching for the second-rate | Kim Bunce reviews audiotape of Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. (The Observer, London)
West Bank conflict:
- Christians split over conflict in the Mideast | Liberal Jews find themselves allied with conservative evangelical believers. Standoff at Bethlehem church adds to tension. (Los Angeles Times)
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