Monty Roberts & Nonprofit Misuse


by John Dolan

For the past few years, Monty Roberts has been actively seeking donations for his “non-profit” International Learning Center. But there are now indications that Mr. Roberts has been misusing the donations that have been sent to him. This is how he describes the function of the center: “A nonprofit corporation, Join-Up International, Inc. has been formed for the purpose of funding a school to teach the Monty Roberts Join-Up method. The Learning Center’s purpose will be to teach all facets of horsemanship, using the concepts of Join-Up”. He further notices: “Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. Join-Up International, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation.”

Non-profit organizations have a stated goal which allows them to achieve tax-exempt status. And the money that non-profits raise must go for that stated purpose. As you can see, Mr. Roberts’ stated goal is to fund a school and teach all aspects of his particular training method. Interestingly, nowhere in any of that verbiage does Mr. Roberts indicate that his stated goal with respect to his non-profit is to pay for settlements in lawsuits against him.

Yet that is precisely what he said he would do when offering to settle a lawsuit against him for fraud and breach of contract that is entirely separate from any activity associated with his non-profit organization. In prefacing that settlement offer, Monty Roberts indicated that he had no money, personally, that his farm was heavily in debt and that ‘any money that was paid to settle the case would come out of (his) nonprofit.’ The party that might have been on the receiving end of that money (animal lovers) believe it was a ruse by Mr. Roberts to get them to feel guilty for pursuing him, making them believe that they might be taking money from such a ‘lofty’ goal as his.

Lawyers consulting in the case said they believed Mr. Roberts could certainly get away with the misuse of his non-profit funds by simple yet effective “creative accounting which is done all the time.”

There is a big difference between what is illegal and what is unethical. That’s why people who donate to charities and nonprofits are always advised to question where their money is going. Usually, you don’t want to give to an organization where the bulk of the funds are used unethically as in Roberts’ case or when the ‘administrative costs’ far exceed the money actually used for the organization’s stated purpose.

How often has he done this? Mr. Roberts settled another lawsuit just last year. Presumably his financial crisis did not magically appear in the past month or so when he made the statements. That lawsuit too was for fraud and breach of contract among other nasty things and again it was totally unrelated to his Learning Center.

At the very least, people who give Monty Roberts money thinking they are supporting a ‘better place for horses’ (through his Join Up International Center or other ventures) should know that their money might also be going to paying off his various unrelated lawsuits.

To ethical people, any use of ‘creative accounting’ is highly unethical; and under the right scrutiny, it’s also illegal.