Over 550 days later, we find the notorious ABIM Foundation condominium was finally sold on 6/21/2016 for $1,650,000 representing an up-front cash loss of $650,000.
But let's not forget the other associated fees required to sell a condo:
Real estate commission (6%): ($99,000)
Transfer Tax as buyer (2%) (2007): $46,000
Transfer Tax as seller (2%) (2016): $33,000
Title insurance: $10,000
Other fees: deed preparation, attorney fees, recording fees, etc. $10,000.
Furniture expense: $56,267
And then there's the annual condo fees, cable, phone, electric, cleaning, etc., that came to $41,000-$50,000 annually (approximately $450,000 over 9 years) (Source: Richard Baron, MD, President and CEO of the ABIM and ABIM Foundation)
All told, ABIM took $2,356,267 million of ABIM diplomat's cash and lost at least $1,265,267 on our behalf.
So much for "Choosing Wisely®."
But let's face it, incurring a financial loss on an "investment" is not necessarily illegal. After all, any of us could have made a horrible investment decision. Rest assured we'll soon hear the ABIM trying to justify their real estate loss because they would have lost this money anyway if they had to pay hotel costs for all of their out-of-town guests and programmers from India eager for a cheap place to stay.
But we should ask ourselves now with the sale of this condominium, what was illegal at the ABIM Foundation? Anything?
First, recall that Dr. Baron claimed in my communications with him that much of the condominium expenses they claimed on their tax forms as program service expenses was actually a depreciation expense they lumped into the "program services expenses" of the condominium. Yet the ABIM and their accountants never claimed depreciation under the separate line item on their federal IRS Form 990 for this expense.
Unlikely. After all, other tax filing discrepancies with the ABIM Foundation have occurred repeatedly and systematically over many years. Any credible accounting audit should have disclosed most of them.
For instance, surely someone at the ABIM knew the difference between the two states of Iowa and Pennsylvania, didn't they? So why was the ABIM Foundation domicile claimed as Iowa for years when, in fact, it was domiciled in Pennsylvania but never disclosed? And isn't it striking that the ABIM Foundation was claimed for years as being formed in 1999 until this blog disclosed that it was actually created in 1989, some ten years earlier? Only in its most recent tax filings has that little "oversight" miraculously been corrected without explanation to the Internal Revenue Service.
And why didn't the ABIM disclose that it was lobbying Congress on its tax forms when it had been doing so for years? Was this merely a mistake? Or was it because the ABIM and their Foundation would have opened themselves up to closer scrutiny and lost their tax-exempt status if they had?
Unethical Research Practices
Finally, we have to ask ourselves just what kind of research on physicians for the betterment of health care requires a $2.3 million condominium? After all, the ABIM Foundation has always heavily touted their research work and publications.
Some may argue there wasn't "research" being conducted at the ABIM Foundation but rather "quality assurance" or "Quality Improvement" exercises performed there. If so, then why did the ABIM Foundation promote it's pioneering research by using the term at least five times on a single web page in May of 2007?
|Archived Screen May 2007 - ABIM Foundation|
(Click image to enlarge)
|Evidence of ABIM Funding "research projects" at the ABIM Foundation|
for $6 million in Fiscal Year 2008
(Click image to enlarge)
There is no escaping the fact that this was a very serious effort at conducting "research" on physicians.
Was the whole "research" story told by the ABIM and ABIM Foundation just a front for other activities? I wish to bring my reader's attention that the ABIM Foundation no longer has the word "research" appear anywhere on its website. Instead, there are only words like "Medical Professionalism Charter," "Initiatives," "Grants" and "Choosing Wisely®." The cover-up continues.
Credentialing of physicians involves human testing. As such, it appears the ABIM Foundation unilaterally decided to perform research on physicians without informed consent, without an impartial Investigational Review Board, and without a clear research hypothesis, method, or analysis of the harms they might cause.
"Research" conducted in such a manner is dangerous for many reasons and some of the most egregious examples of dangerous research have happened in government agencies or when the individual or collective social beliefs or dogma were imposed on others as justification for "research."
The Nuremberg Doctrine which rose from the World War II war crimes is very clear in its requirements for human subject research, especially as it pertains to proper consent. From my recently conducted bi-annual CITI Training:
"The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.It goes without saying that human subject research that involves real estate investment strategies to fund research on practicing physicians is unethical (at least) and likely highly illegal. As we have seen, the MOC recertification program can cause significant harm to physicians, their patients, and their families, especially when this credential is tied to physician employment and remuneration. Worse still, the average failure rate of the unproven "Maintenance of Certification" re-certification metric has averaged 13.2% over the past 10 years with wide year-to-year volatility in pass rates using an inconsistent metric. Was the impact of funneling money from the ABIM to the ABIM Foundation for the ABIM Foundation's "research" really that harmful?
This means that the person involved should have the legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that, before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject, there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person, which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.
The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs, or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity."
But this story isn't about a condominium or its sale, is it? It's about the wholesale sell-out by some in Organized Medicine that have systematically and repeatedly turned their back on their fellow practicing physicians and the doctor-patient relationship for their own political and financial benefit. For this story is not just restricted to the ABIM or its Foundation. This story extends to all member organizations of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) that tie the ABMS Board certification credential to medical training program directors, lab certifications, and a host of other regulatory traps, too. So it should come as a surprise to no one that we find more recently that each of these organizations appears to have been complicit with the ABIM Foundation moving funds derived from practicing physicians' "research" fees offshore.
In the end, the entire American Board of Medical Specialties' Maintenance of Certification® story has alway been about making money for their coffers at the expense of practicing physicians, irrespective of the specialty.
Always has been and always will be.
It's NEVER been about "Choosing Wisely®."