By Gupta Das (Joseph Fedorowsky)
Disparaging statements were recently published on the Internet by ill informed individuals regarding the ISKCON Chapter 11 Youth Fund. The gist of the malicious falsity is that in order to punish the original Texas Gurukuli plaintiffs and avoid the payment of millions of dollars to those plaintiffs, the North American GBC and the SSPT formulated a strategy to illegally increase the number of Gurukuli claimants worldwide with the result that ISKCON filed for Chapter 11 protection and created a Reorganization Plan in US Bankruptcy Court.
As a member of the ISKCON legal team which defended against the Texas lawsuit and as Special Master appointed by the Bankruptcy Court to evaluate the claims and oversee distribution of the $9.5 million dollar Youth Fund, it is clear that these spurious allegations are far removed from both an understanding of the legal mechanics involved as well as the actual motivation of ISKCON leadership.
The fact is that the bankruptcy legal strategy originated with counsel and was subsequently presented by counsel to ISKCON management â€“ not the other way around. Moreover, it was the studied opinion of counsel that the case filed against ISKCON in Texas was fully defensible based on the applicable statutes of limitations.
ISKCON leadership ultimately decided to create a multimillion dollar compensation fund under the auspices of the Bankruptcy Court to uniformly compensate as many Gurukulis as possible rather than defend and prevail against those ninety-one Texas plaintiffs. This approach resulted in placing more money in more Gurukuli hands â€“ not less money in fewer Gurukuli hands.
The resulting legal strategy chosen by the ISKCON leadership achieved three important goals. First, it protected the good name and honor of Srila Prabhupada from spurious attack. Second, it saved temples from closure that may have been sold to cover legal fees if the case had gone through an expensive trial process. And third, in addition to the original ninety-one Gurukulis who sued ISKCON, almost six hundred more young devotees who had suffered abuse were located and included in the final settlement, and thus allocated their fair share of the compensation fund.
ISKCONâ€™s open, innovative and straightforward approach in the ISKCON Chapter 11 Reorganization Plan was well received by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. During the confirmation hearing in West Virginia, Hon. L. Edward Friend II of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court stated he was â€śimpressedâ€ť with the Reorganization Plan and with all the effort that it took to put together, and that he â€śwholeheartedly endorsed the Planâ€ť as being in the â€śbest interests of the creditors [Gurukuli tort claimants].â€ť
Hon. L. Edward Friend II also noted that the Plan â€śmakes senseâ€ť in that it will avoid numerous lawsuits which would otherwise waste assets that will be used for the benefit of the claimants, and then went on to praise the Plan as a â€śmodelâ€ť that should be followed in similar cases throughout the country.
The Courtâ€™s unbiased, objective and laudatory analysis of the Reorganization Plan eviscerates the ludicrous assertion that the Chapter 11 case was a secret, corrupt conspiratorial plot devised by ISKCON leaders to disenfranchise the Movementâ€™s youth or to punish any individual or group. Disparaging statements along this line serve no purpose other than to insult and vilipend ISKCONâ€™s sincere, long term commitment to the Movementâ€™s youth.
Thus, from my perspective as legal counsel and Special Master in the bankruptcy proceedings, it is abundantly clear that the Reorganization Plan would not have been successful were it not for the day-after-day devotional commitment of innumerable devotees, GBC members, gurus, sannyasis, temple presidents, regional leaders, congregational leaders, supporters and other well wishers from around the world who â€“ with genuine care and loving support â€“ voluntarily took on the responsibility and shouldered the burden of financing the Youth Fund to successful completion.