A settlement has been reached in the suit against directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Inc. (TRF). The group is one of the nation’s largest charitable organizations dedicated to caring for retired racehorses.
The directors of the New York-based foundation’s board came under scrutiny after allegations surfaced they had neglected their duties. According to the Attorney General’s office, TRF took on more racehorses than the group could afford to care for, resulting in the neglect and mistreatment of some horses.
Lacking donor funds to cover expenses, TRF utilized funds from the foundation’s endowment, established by the estate of Paul Mellon, to secure a total of $2 million in loans. Under the settlement, the organization is prohibited from using the endowment fund to secure any future loans.
In 2011, allegations surfaced that some TRF horses were missing, neglected, and even presumed dead. Operating at a deficit, the group was reportedly not reliable when it came to paying the farms holding the contracts to care for the retired racehorses.
Under the settlement, TRF will add a veterinarian, named by the Attorney General’s office, to its board. The board is also being revamped and will include a director nominated by an animal welfare organization and one nominated by members of the nation’s horse racing and breeding industry. The board must establish a five-person committee, consisting of the three new directors and two current board members not named as defendants in the lawsuit, charged with recruiting a new, full-time chief executive officer for the organization.
“New York needs the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to be fiscally sound and responsibly managed. Our agreement to remake the board of directors will help put this important charity back on solid financial ground and able to care for the animals it receives – and it gives TRF a shot to reclaim its place as one of America’s leading thoroughbred organizations,” Attorney General Schneiderman said in a statement. “As it was previously constituted, the foundation’s board proved unable to conduct necessary financial oversight and management.”
Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit sought the removal of the responsible directors. The agreement requires that both current CEO and board chairman John Moore and long-time director Diana Pikulski resign within a year of a new CEO being hired. Three other directors have resigned from TRF’s board since the lawsuit was filed in May 2012. Two defendant directors, Margaret Santulli and Leslie Priggen, will remain on the board.
Since the lawsuit, TRF has reportedly taken steps to improve its ability to carry out its mission of caring for retired racehorses. Most notably, it has halted a practice of accepting more thoroughbreds into its herd than it had the resources to adequately sustain. The number in its herd is now fewer than 950, a one-third reduction in the herd’s maximum size before the lawsuit was filed.
Interestingly, TRF’s current Chairman and CEO, John Moore, has a different perspective regarding the suit. “Our herd … remains in fine condition as we head into winter, just as it has been throughout this entire ordeal. We are relieved to have behind us this nuisance suit that the NYAG should be embarrassed to have initiated. It has been costly, a serious distraction, and a waste of both the taxpayers’ money and the scarce time and attention of our small and dedicated staff.”
The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation was founded in 1984 to save racehorses no longer able to compete on the racetrack “from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter,” according to its Mission Statement.