Saving Sweet Briar Hires Certified Fraud Examiner to Examine Sweet Briar College Financial Records

by vixenSBC

Richmond, VA – Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., the non-profit group formed to fight the closure of Sweet Briar College, announced today that it has retained Steven Spitzer, a Certified Fraud Examiner, to conduct a forensic analysis of Sweet Briar College’s finances.

Steven Spitzer, CPA, CFE leads the Litigation Support, Evaluation and Forensic Accounting Team of Yount, Hyde & Barbour, a Virginia-based accounting firm that provides accounting, tax, assurance and advisory services.

Spitzer has advised a number of colleges on financial matters and has a deep understanding of the underpinnings of a college’s financial strengths and weaknesses. His past collegiate clients have included Shenandoah University, Christendom College, Patrick Henry College and Virginia Intermont College.

“My preliminary analysis of financial statements over the past several years indicates that there is no immediate financial crisis that warrants the decision to close the school,” said Spitzer. “As we review additional financial data, I will be able to provide an assessment of the school’s true present day financial condition.”

Troutman Sanders, the Richmond law firm leading Saving Sweet Briar’s legal challenge to the college’s closure, will submit a formal request for a number of financial records Spitzer will need to conduct his forensic analysis. 

“We have recognized from day one that Sweet Briar College faces challenges but we believe these can be overcome through a series of steps including enhanced marketing, more aggressive recruitment, cost cutting and increased alumnae giving,” said Sarah Clement, (Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984), Chair of the Saving Sweet Briar Board of Directors. “What is most important as we prepare to help chart a new future for Sweet Briar College is having an accurate and current picture of the school’s true financial condition. Thankfully, with Mr. Spitzer’s help, will be able to determine what is needed to close the immediate financial shortfall.  We can then work to close that gap and begin the process of developing a longer term strategy with input from key stakeholders that will allow us to ensure that future generations of women can proudly call themselves Sweet Briar alumnae.”

Clement criticized college officials for misleading alumnae, faculty and students about the financial challenges facing the school. “The interim president of the college told alumnae that a $250 million endowment would be needed almost immediately to help save the school,” said Clement. “That’s simply a ridiculous figure not supported by the facts.” 

A group of volunteers supporting Saving Sweet Briar conducted their own initial assessment of the college’s financial position and recently challenged the claims by college officials who said current financial conditions justified the decision to close the college at the end of the current semester.

According to Spitzer’s own preliminary review of the college’s annual financial statements from 2010 to 2014, yearly operating deficits were erased by investment gains from the endowment, grants, gifts and alumni giving. 

Spitzer also said the college’s net assets appear to have increased over the last five years from $126 million to $134 million, while debt obligations dropped from $42 million to $25 million and endowment values rose from $85 million to $95 million.

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Saving Sweet Briar Timeline

March 3, 2015 - Sweet Briar College announces Spring 2015 will be final semester, school will close on August 25, 2015.

March 3, 2015 - Sweet Briar College alumnae galvanize on Facebook, creating working groups to work to halt closure.

March 4, 2015 - launches in the early morning hours. Website begins accepting pledges midday.

March 6, 2015 - pledges exceed $1 million (with additional unconfirmed $1 million pledge that will later be confirmed).

March 6, 2015 - Troutman Sanders retained to fight closure. Read More

March 9, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. formally incorporated as a non-profit with seven alumnae appointed to serve as board members. Read More

March 11, 2015 - Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen sends letter to state Attorney General regarding the legality of closing the college. Read More

March 11, 2015 - Sweet Briar faculty join alumnae in fight to keep college open. Read More

March 18, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. begins accepting donations in the fight to save the college.

March 23, 2015 - Troutman Sanders sends letter requesting President and Board resign. Read More

March 26, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. hires Certified Fraud Examiner. Read More

March 30, 2015 - Amherst County Attorney, Ellen Bowyer, files suit against Sweet Briar College.

April 6, 2015 - Initial Financial Analysis concludes financial condition did not warrant closure Read More

April 12, 2015 - $5 million pledged to Saving Sweet Briar.

April 13, 2015 - Amherst Mayor sends letter opposing closure. Read More

April 15, 2015 - Judge Updike issues a 60 day injunction preventing the college from using funds solicited to operate the college to close it.

April 23, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. launches Alumnae Angels program to help students with financial concerns during transition and uncertainty.

April 29, 2015 - Judge Updike issues another injunction in one of the other legal cases preventing the college from selling assets for six months.

April 29, 2015 - Amherst County Attorney files Petition to Review with Virginia Supreme Court.

May 19, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. granted 501(c)(3) status, with tax exempt status applying to all donations made from the incorporation date of March 9, 2015.

June 9, 2015 - Virginia Supreme Court rules that Sweet Briar College can be a trust.

June 19, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. announces $21 million total pledged over 5 years.

June 20, 2015 - Settlement reached, keeping Sweet Briar College open. Settlement terms include 3 payments to college with the first $2.5 million due on July 2.

June 23, 2015 - Amherst CountyBoard of Supervisors names Sweet Briar Day.

June 30, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. delivers $5 million ahead of schedule to Sweet Briar College.

July 2, 2015 - President Stone assumes new position, new Board of Directors appointed.

September 2, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. delivers final settlement payment to Sweet Briar College, exceeding $12 million total.