UPDATE: Though the original story did not mention it, I sent numerous requests to Dan Busby for an interview through his agent, Anna Hutstell of the public relations firm DeMoss. Instead of an interview, Hutsell sent me the ECFA statement cited in this article.
As President of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Dan Busby is responsible for enforcing ECFA’s standards of ethics among the 2,300 nonprofit groups and churches that the ECFA accredits. Busby also speaks nationally on financial accountability. And he’s written numerous books including, TRUST: The Firm Foundation of Kingdom Fruitfulness—a book equipping leaders of “Christ-centered ministries” to “be intentional about building and maintaining trust.”
Given that the ECFA and Busby’s platform rely on trust and integrity, one would expect Busby to be above reproach. Yet according to the Virginia Board of Accountancy (VBOA), Busby was fined $9,000 in 2016 for the unlicensed use of the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) title on at least 38 publications, his personal website, the ECFA’s website, and the Church Law & Tax website.
The VBOA also required Busby to pay an additional $1,000 administrative fee to cover the VBOA investigation. And the board ordered Busby to remove the CPA title from all “signage and any and all listings” until Busby again became licensed.
“Given that the ECFA and Busby’s platform rely on trust and integrity, one would expect Busby to be above reproach. Yet according to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, Busby was fined $9,000 in 2016 for the unlicensed use of the CPA title . . . “
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According to the VBOA complaint, Busby falsely represented himself as a CPA on multiple books published by Zondervan between 2000-2015. These included “The Christian’s Guide to Worry-free Money Management,” and numerous editions of “The Zondervan Minister’s Tax & Financial Guide” and Zondervan’s “Church and Nonprofit Tax & Financial Guide.”
I contacted Zondervan for comment, but the publisher did not respond.
Busby also was listed as a CPA on numerous books published by the ECFA between 2000-2015. These included “Charitable Giving Guide for Missionaries and Other Workers,” “Donor-Restricted Gifts Simplified,” “The Independent Audit and the Audit Committee,” and multiple editions of “Preparing Tax Returns for Clergy” and “Reporting Procedures for Congregations.”
Busby was also listed as a CPA in ECFA newsletters between 2000-2015, as well as on multiple websites, the National Directory of Registered Tax Return Preparers and Professionals, and Busby’s LinkedIn account.
Brian Taylor, a former CPA who now works for a small consulting company in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, sent me the VBOA complaint, which he said he researched and submitted four years ago. Taylor noted that Busby had worked as a CPA for 31 years before coming to the ECFA, and said his misrepresentation was intentional and inexcusable.
“With Busby, it was a 15-year pattern of intentional fraudulent inducement to sell books and enrich his pocketbook and his reputation,” Taylor said. “This was no accident. . . . He knew he didn’t take any CPE classes for 15 years. You can’t do it for 31 years and then suddenly forget. CPAs are reminded annually.”
“This was no accident. . . . He knew he didn’t take any CPE classes for 15 years. You can’t do it for 31 years and then suddenly forget. CPAs are reminded annually.”
“Mr. Busby’s current role as President of ECFA is to enforce (ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship) among all member nonprofits, as the basis for the public trust in nonprofit fundraising and responsible stewardship of trust funds throughout America. And yet . . . Mr. Busby freely chose to commit intentional acts of wrongdoing over his entire 15-year tenure at ECFA, that repeatedly violated the ECFA Standards, the Code of Virginia, and the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) Code of Professional Conduct.”
Virginia law prohibits a person who does not hold a Virginia CPA license from using the CPA title in Virginia. Similarly, the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct states that a member discredits the profession if the person “makes claims about the member’s . . . qualifications in a manner that is false, misleading, or deceptive.” This would include “any representation about CPA licensure . . . that is not in compliance with the requirements of the relevant licensing authority.”
Recently, Busby and the ECFA have come under increased scrutiny for its longstanding accreditation of Harvest Bible Chapel, despite glaring financial improprieties there. Last Wednesday, I confronted the ECFA publicly for accrediting Harvest. And on Saturday, the ECFA finally suspended Harvest’s ECFA accreditation. But the Harvest debacle has raised questions concerning the ECFA’s effectiveness to hold member groups accountable.
In a statement released today, the ECFA defended its president. The statement said that Busby learned that he was not in compliance with Virginia’s accountancy laws in 2015 and has since rectified the problem. “While Dan’s use of the CPA designation complies with the laws of Kansas—where he was originally and still is certified—he had no idea that his use of the designation could possibly not be in compliance with Virginia law,” the statement said. “Dan, of course, was mortified to learn of any possibility that he was not in full compliance as he has made it his life’s work to help organizations pursue integrity.”
The statement added that Busby “has never held himself out as offering public accounting services as a Virginia CPA.” And it noted that Busby has since completed more than 180 hours of continuing professional education and settled the matter with the Virginia Board. “Dan is glad to have the matter resolved and he deeply regrets the oversight,” the statement said.
“Dan, of course, was mortified to learn of any possibility that he was not in full compliance as he has made it his life’s work to help organizations pursue integrity.”
Also, according to the AICPA, “any action initiated by a member that informs others of his or her status as a CPA . . . constitutes holding out as a CPA.” Not only did Busby use the CPA designation from 2000-2015 on his website, bio, and in his books, he also prepared the ECFA 990 tax returns and was listed as a CPA in online directories.
Taylor said he stands by his claim that Busby’s violation was intentional and not an “oversight.” In addition to the facts already cited, Taylor noted that Busby did not use the CPA title when he signed a letter in 2011 that was submitted to the IRS, nor in a 2013 report that was submitted to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. The “logical conclusion,” Taylor asserts, was that Busby “was afraid he might be found out and embarrassed, so he concealed the CPA where the risk was higher.”
According to the ECFA statement, the organization’s board was informed of the issues with the Virginia board “as it developed.” The statement adds that the board “continues to wholeheartedly support Dan in his role as ECFA president and in all his endeavors.”
Interestingly, Busby’s base salary at the ECFA in 2015 was $193,218, according to the ECFA 2015 990 tax form. However, in 2016, the year of the Virginia board sanction, it jumped 26-percent to $242,563. And in 2017, the last 990 available online, Busby’s base salary was $254,979.
One of the seven areas covered in ECFA’s seven standards is compensation setting for leaders of its member organizations. The other standards deal with use of resources and compliance with laws, doctrinal issues, governance, financial oversight, transparency, and stewardship of charitable gifts.
ECFA President Dan Busby learned in 2015 that he was not in compliance with Virginia’s accountancy laws in connection with his use of the CPA designation. While Dan’s use of the CPA designation complies with the laws of Kansas—where he was originally and still is certified—he had no idea that his use of the designation could possibly not be in compliance with Virginia law. Dan, of course, was mortified to learn of any possibility that he was not in full compliance as he has made it his life’s work to help organizations pursue integrity. He has never held himself out as offering public accounting services as a Virginia CPA. The matter was settled with the Virginia Board of Accountancy in 2016, and Virginia issued him a license to practice accountancy—and thereby the privilege to use the CPA designation. He completed more than 180 hours of continuing professional education in 2016 and 2017 (in contrast to the required 40 hours per year). Dan is glad to have the matter resolved and he deeply regrets the oversight. ECFA’s board of directors was fully apprised of the matter as it developed and continues to wholeheartedly support Dan in his role as ECFA president and in all his endeavors.