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Lawsuit Alleges “Spotlight” Charity Profits from Priests’ Victims through Attorney Kickbacks
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A promotional still from the Oscar-winning movie, Spotlight.

Summary: A wrongful termination lawsuit exposes an alleged lawyer kickback scheme in a charity which aims to help victims of priest abuse. 

A new lawsuit claims that the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn’t a charitable organization trying to help victims. Instead, it’s a greedy group funded by unethical lawyer kickbacks.While evidence exists that seems to support the lawsuit’s allegations, the high-profile organization also has an obvious powerful foe, the Catholic Church, who wouldn’t mind seeing the charity implode. So this begs the question–Are the recent allegations concerns from a former employee or are they a takedown from someone with a bitter anti-SNAP agenda?

  
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SNAP is a nonprofit that has been operating for 20 years with the mission to bring justice to sexual abuse victims who were molested or raped by officials in the Catholic Church. In their early days, it struggled to find funding; but after The Boston Globe conducted an investigation into the church and SNAP’s victims, a wave of attention poured upon the group and they were inundated with donations. Most recently, SNAP came into the public profile again thanks to the film Spotlight which chronicled what happened when the Boston Globe’s journalists probed sexual abuse allegations against local clergy.

St. Louis-based SNAP has helped numerous victims settle lawsuits against the Catholic Church, and they have had an overall positive reputation until recently. The Daily Beast reports that a former employee, Gretchen Rachel Hammond, filed a lawsuit that accused SNAP of exploiting abuse survivors in a kickback scheme with attorneys nationwide.

In her lawsuit, Hammond said she was wrongfully terminated as SNAP’s development director in 2013 after she confronted president Barbara Blaine. Hammond said that she had noticed attorneys who had represented SNAP victims were routinely donating back to the group large sums that made up to 80% of SNAP’s annual contributions.

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After Hammond’s lawsuit was filed, Blaine and executive director David Clohessy resigned, but both said that the timing was coincidental and that the lawsuit was meritless.

Hammond said that when survivors reached out to SNAP, they would be directed to a pool of 30 specific attorneys. She said that once the cases were settled, the attorneys and SNAP would share the settlement money. According to The Daily Beast, The Catholic Church has paid out almost $3 billion in these types of settlements in the past decade.



In the last five years, SNAP reportedly brought in a total of $5 million in revenue. Lawyers whom Hammond said were involved with the kickback scheme donated amounts such as $100,000 or $415,000 per year.

SNAP has denied all allegations, and Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director and co-defendant in the suit, said that the group is a nonprofit that is reliant on funds to survive.

“We have never and will never do that. We accept donations from cops, attorneys, our members, church employees and church members. We are a not for profit. Like all nonprofit organizations, we must raise funds to survive,” Dorris told The Daily Beast. 

According to Jim Grogan, the deputy administrator and chief counsel of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, attorneys who pay a fee for a referral for legal services are acting unethically and may face sanctions that could be as light as a reprimand or as severe as disbarment.

Source: The Daily Beast

What do you think of Hammond’s allegations? Let us know in the comments below. 



 

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