Ever since Jon Krakauer published his Three Cups of Deceit piece and 60 Minutes ran their exposè on author/mountaineer Greg Mortenson, we’ve all been waiting for the results of an investigation that was launched by the Montana Attorney General. Those results were released earlier today and they aren’t good for Mortenson.
According to their findings there has been substantial mishandling of funds at Mortenson’s non-profit organization the Central Asia Institute. The charity was founded to help raise funds for Mortenson’s work in the Himalaya, where he built schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Krakauer and 60 Minutes alleged that CAI was used to help promote Mortenson himself and line his own pockets.
The Montana AG report, which you can read in it’s entirety over at Outside Online, says that Mortenson used CAI funds to pay for personal travel and items for his family. The report accuses him of “significant lapses in judgement” in regards to how the organization has been run and points out a “lack of financial accountability” as well.
For instance, the charity purchased nearly $4 million worth of Mortenson’s two books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, allowing him to reap the profits. The records show that he also spent more than $2 million on charter flights to speaking engagements and an additional $75,276 was spent on personal items for his family. As a result of these findings, which resulted from a months long investigation, Mortenson has been ordered to reimburse CAI over $1 million.
CAI’s board has been called to task as well as most of them did little or nothing to challenge Mortenson’s use of fund or the way he ran the organization. They are sighted in the AG report too and reprimanded for not providing more oversight.
What happens from here remains to be seen. It seems that CAI has been more diligent with its operations since the whole affair started, but the scrutiny of the public has a way of doing that to an organization.
As I’ve said many times before, Mortenson’s work has been tremendous and it is a shame that these scandals have overshadowed that. Perhaps if he can pay back the money and get CAI back on track, he can continue building those schools.
Also, these findings have no impact on a possible pending class action lawsuit against Mortenson regarding his claims in his books, some of which appear to be at the very least highly exaggerated. Some of his claims have been challenged by a number of people and readers who bought into his story have often felt deceived. What will happen with those legal wranglings remain to be seen.
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1 thought on “Greg Mortenson Ordered To Reimburse CAI $1 Million”
I don't know Mortensen, but having read his books I accept his self description as a guy who stumbled out of near anonymity as a climbing bum into the role of activist-philanthropist for which he was untrained but determined to make a difference.
He admits in his first book that he led a disorganized, over-worked life until he found the chance to do something for poor people living in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He helped build a couple of schools for girls. That led to more, and then more, which created the need for financial patronage. Naturally, he turned to other mountain climbers for help.
Unfortunately, there exists in the mountain climber culture a virile segment that is hyper competitive and pretty fanatical about exactitude:
Which precise route did you take up the north face? Or was it the NNE face? Was it a 5.6 class or 5.66? Did you use pitons? How many, and did you remove them all? Shame if you missed one!!
Did you go alpine style (good for you) or used fixed ropes (naughty, naughty)? Was your freeze dry food organic? Did you carry your poop off the mountain (that gets really high marks)? Do you like expensive micro-brew beers (more points)?
Some climbers think those details are the most important things in life and could never understand the value of connecting with and helping the human beings who happen to live in the mountains that they climb in "assaults."
After reading Krakauer's books, it seems clear that he is a detail fanatic and Mortensen is not. And Krakauer was jealous that Mortenson's books outsold his. That is the bottom line of what this "expose" comes down to.
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