Every year, around this time of the holiday season, Google co-founder Larry Page makes a huge gift to charity.
In 2015, Page’s foundation dug deep and directed $94 million in new Christmastime giving. The next year around the same time, it sent $129 million out the door. By 2017, the group was donating twice as much during the holidays as it was just two years before, giving $180 million from his fortune to philanthropy.
There was just one problem, buried deep in tax records: None of this $400 million donated by his philanthropy, the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, was actually going directly to charities. And these gifts, as for many donors, were not inspired by holiday cheer — but likely by an end-of-year deadline that incentivizes donors to effectively skirt the few rules that are meant to hold charitable foundations like Page’s accountable.
What Page was doing each year was something of a philanthropic sleight of hand. Private foundations are required by law to disburse at least 5 percent of their assets a year, a requirement meant to make sure that these taxpayer-subsidized philanthropies actually took part in charity.