- “At this point their reluctance to manage money professionally is confusing because I *don't* think they have criminal intentions. But the Greek place down the street that's a front for the mob operates with more legitimacy than the OTW has demonstrated.
- — Nonny, Oct. 9, 2015
Problems with how the OTW has been managing its money are outlined at the top of the page discussing their fall 2015 elections and fundraiser. Note that the details below were discussed on FFA before the OTW put up this post promising its donors that it would rectify at least some of the oversights mentioned on this page (initial meme discussion).
A nonny linked to the OTW’s M2014 annual report, wherein is the proud announcement that the organization “made important strides towards meeting standards for organizational best practices such as compiling an annual budget for the first time in the OTW’s history” (emphasis added). Another nonny remarked, “That’s terrifying.”
However, this nonny dug up a post on the OTW Tumblr referring to the existence of a budget of U.S. $221,863.44 for the OTW in 2014. That post and this one both claim that 70% of the budget goes to AO3, 30% toward “other projects, services, meetings and general administrative costs.” Nonnies subsequently discuss how much money colocation and servers actually need. (See also this comment from a previous post: “The Systems team who maintain AO3’s hardware have very clear plans for how to spend the OTW’s money on the purchase and upkeep of servers for an ever-expanding web site serving 15 million page views a day. The trick is getting the OTW to give it to them.”)
A nonny found the OTW’s public 990 form for 2013. In that year, they claimed total revenue of $167,000 but total expenses of only $54,599, leaving a surplus of $112,765. Between the AO3 and two issues of the academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures, they spent less than $30,000. Another nonny wondered why, then, they still felt the need to raise $175,000 twice yearly.
In response to the question “Does the Board give each committee a certain amount of money each year?”, a nonny who is with the OTW replied, “No. Until a couple weeks ago, when they panicked and realized people were starting to make noises for a budget for 2016, the Board had never contacted committees asking for how much money they planned to request for the following year. They have to approve each expense as it arises, in some cases, even expenses that happen regularly. It's a really silly system, to put it mildly.”
The OTW does not have an accountant to handle their books. A nonny who is an ex-banker believes that they should hire one without ties to the OTW at a salary of at least $10,000 per year, “possibly quite a bit more at the beginning to sort out the previous mess.”
A nonny asked, “Does the OTW even have any kind of internal audit or risk controls?” The reply: “No, we do not.” A volunteer answering questions on AO3 stated that they “plan to have an independent accountant audit or review its finances - paying for that service is one of our projected future expenses.” Meme discussion.
Too much money kept in checking and PayPal accountsEdit
This nonny, going through old OTW meeting minutes, compiled a table of the amounts that the OTW has been keeping in a checking account, which earns no interest and may cost the OTW money in case of a bank crash; and in two PayPal accounts, which not only earn no interest but are vulnerable to theft and freezing. They also have more than $10,000 in a CD (certificate of deposit) account. Click image for larger version:
This nonny found slightly more recent numbers (Aug. 22, 2015): “PayPal Primary: 123,110.14; PayPal Secondary: 1328.95; Checking: 164,154.76; CD: 10142.79, with standard monthly expenses clearing.”
Additionally, their having two separate PayPal accounts for the same business violates PayPal's terms of service. Customers may have one personal and one business account, but PayPal forbids more than one business account “primarily to prevent money laundering and other illegal activity.” If one of the OTW PayPal account is a personal account that pre-dates their incorporation as a nonprofit, “it would need to be linked to an individual's bank account, which is obviously terrible from an ethical standpoint.”
A nonny observed, “What I take from this is that pretty much anyone could functionally shut down the OTW at any time by reporting them to either Paypal or the IRS.” Perhaps unsurprising, a nonny did actually email PayPal about this matter. All hell broke loose in that subthread, with people calling it a troll attempt to get FFA blamed for a hypothetical AO3 shutdown and asking that nonny, “Do you report all your friends who illegally download movies? Which is actually illegal and not someone violating the terms of service with a company? [...] Who hired you to be a TOS officer for all companies ever?”
Other nonnies, however, defended the action. “AO3 isn't my friend. And honestly, after all this mess, I'd love if they stopped existing, so I'm gonna send an email to paypal too.” Similarly: “Zero sympathy for the OTW. I give no fucks whether the nonnie emailing PayPal was a Lawful Good OEA who was deeply, sincerely concerned or a grudgewanker looking to stir some shit. This is not some individual scrolling past the ToS text wall on their phone's new software update or posting rpf smut to ff.net or watching TV episodes on youtube. This is a huge-ass nonprofit organization handling more money than I make in several years.”
Less wankily, other nonnies pointed out that the AO3 was unlikely to go down due to this, there are laws requiring people who work in financial services to report this sort of thing, the real danger is more likely to be OTW getting reported to the IRS, and:
- In this case, “breaking the rules” means 1) engaging in fraudulent financial behavior by way of almost certainly having one of those accounts linked to someone’s personal bank account, and 2) engaging in serious, IRL irresponsibility by keeping enormous sums of money, up to 1/3 of their overall assets, in an uninsured account. That's not just “breaking the rules” and reporting it isn't “trolling the wank”, it’s taking one of the very few actions available to anyone who, at this point, is profoundly concerned that the OTW is mismanaging people’s funds on a massive scale.
A fan by the handle of Madecunningly asked on AO3 whose name the second PayPal account was in and got a typically maddeningly chirpy and content-void response from the tag wrangler assigned to answer such questions. Comments from other fans went unanswered. (Meme discussion.)