Last week, we pointed to a story about a settlement Fidelity Investments made with the SEC after word emerged about some pretty opulent VIP handouts from brokers to some Fidelity traders whose business they were courting, including Superbowl tickets, booze cruises, and more – an estimated $1.6 million in gifts between 2002 and 2004.
Now, Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal has brought our attention to some creative non-profit spending by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, courtesy of an investigative reporting team at the local CBS affiliate in Dallas.
Apparently, President Kern Wildenthal and Vice President Cyndi of the (non-profit) Medical Center racked up $125,000 in credit card charges for fine wine (haven’t they heard of Charles Shaw?); but that’s not all. According to the report:
CBS 11 uncovered more than $500,000 in expenses charged over the past two years to credit cards issued to Wildenthal and Cynthia Bassel, UTSW’s Executive Vice President for External Relations. Financial records obtained under the Public Information Act indicate that most of the expenses were paid for with money that was donated to the medical institution.
And $40,000 of a life savings memorial fund given to the Medical Center for ‘professional development’ ended up going toward, well, edibles, including a really top-grade sirloin.
Wait, there’s more. CBS also found:
Both Wildenthal and Bassel have charged thousands of dollars to the credit cards for memberships in social and civic organizations. CBS 11’s review found that donors’ money from the Southwestern Medical Foundation was used to pay for Wildenthal’s 2007 membership dues in the Dallas Symphony ($3500); Dallas Museum of Art ($5000); Nasher Sculpture Garden ($5000); British North American Committee ($6000); Dallas Women’s Club ($850); and the SMU Town and Gown Club ($140).
While this indiscriminate – or very discriminate – spending (depending on how you look at it) may not have altered Wildenthal’s and Bassel’s decisions about a drug being petitioned for formulary, or the type of statin a patient should start on – the kind of conflicts we usually focus on here at PostScript – they are still conflicts of interest, writ large, as Poses points out by returning several times throughout the post to the mission statement of the Medical Center which, it takes little imagination to guess, focuses on the health of patients and the community.
In the same way that consulting retainers bigger than salaries, box seats, and paid educational trips to the tropics for doctors change the subject from good, evidence-based medicine, even subtly, so to do these expenditures at the very top at UTSMC distract from the center’s mission to deliver quality patient care, and set a troubling tone that spending at Southwestern is all about “To your health,” but no good for it.